Baloch FC hold KRL as PPFL heads for exciting end
KARACHI: The Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) is set for a grandstand finish after leaders Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) were held to a goalless draw by Baloch FC on Thursday.
After losing their last game against Muslim FC, KRL were looking to secure all three points at the Noushki Football Stadium but were thwarted by a brilliant goalkeeping performance by Baloch FC shot-stopper Sher Zaman.
The goalkeeper, formerly on the books of KRL, was instrumental in keeping KRL’s forward line that was missing the league’s top-scorer Kaleemullah quiet after he produced an array of stunning saves with KRL going close several times.
KRL coach Tariq Lutfi acknowledged Sher Zaman’s contribution but lamented playing conditions at the ground while also citing harsh weather as a factor for the defending champions being held to a draw.
“The weather conditions were absolutely terrible,” Lutfi told Dawn. “There was a freezing rain accompanied by sleet and our players aren’t used to playing in those conditions so it of course led to us missing a lot of chances.”
After 24 matches of the season, KRL have 59 points from 24 matches and also have a game in hand over second-placed Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) who have 54. Pakistan Air Force (PAF) have 53 points from 27 games while fourth-placed Pakistan Army have 51 from 24.
According to Lutfi, however, the title race is between them and Army.
“Technically, it is an eight-point lead,” he said. “There are still six matches left and its going to be a good race to the finish line as there will be some high-profile fixtures amongst the top four clubs.”
The matches in the run-in to the title will be played here with a crunch clash between KESC and Army set to be the highlight.
Just like the title-race, the battle for survival is also set to go down to the wire as Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) missed a chance to move themselves clear of the relegation zone after they lost 2-1 to Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) here at the KPT Football Stadium.
Shakir Lashari opened the scoring for the airmen when he struck in the 6th minute after a swift counterattack before Mohammad Ishtiaq doubled their lead in the 68th with a fine strike from inside the box.ZTBL captain Syed Ghazi Khan tried to keep his side motivated as he made a number of crucial tackles to keep his side in the game.
His efforts bore fruit when Hikmatullah netted in the 88th but ZTBL could not find the equaliser that would have put them two points clear of the drop zone.
ZTBL have 23 points from 27 games while third-bottom Habib Bank Limited (HBL) have 22 from 24 and PMC Athletioc, who occupy the final relegation spot, have 21 from 26. Basement club Wohaib FC have already been relegated.
PIA, meanwhile, have had a topsy-turvy season and lie in eighth place with 30 points.
Friday’s fixtures: KPT v PMC Athletico (KPT Football Stadium, Karachi); HBL v Wohaib FC (People’s Football Stadium, Karachi).