In what has been one of the most successful runs by a Pakistani Club at a continental-level tournament, the Pakistan Premier League 2012-13 champions, KRL, have defied all odds to reach the final of the AFC Presidents’ Cup, a tournament played between the champions of 12 emerging Asian nations. In doing so, they became the first Pakistani side to reach the final of the competition. And what’s more, they have done this without losing even a single match all tournament.
KRL started the tournament on a slow note, drawing 1-1 with two-time tournament winners, Dordoi Bishkek of Kyrgyzstan. Bishkek took an early lead in the game through striker Kharchenko, but captain Samar Ishaq equalized from the spot 5 minutes into the second half to split the points. Who would have known that this match was to be the only once when KRL would concede a goal in their unbeaten run to the final?
Next up, KRL played Global FC at their home town in Philippines. A goal in both halves by midfielder Mehmood Khan and winger Adil saw KRL cruise to a comfortable 2-0 victory, as the home side posed little questions to a sturdy KRL defense. Two days later, KRL thrashed tournament minnows Yeedzin 8-0 as striker Kalim Ullah opened his account and went on to score 5 goals. The win secured KRL’s qualification to the second stage, just behind and equal with points on Dordoi, only second to them on the table because of an inferior goal difference.
Dordoi and KRL were joined by Palestine’s Hilal Al-Quds in the Group B of the second stage of the tournament, with the stakes high, as the group leader would be playing the final of the cup. When KRL met Dordoi again in the first match of the second stage, they surely did not remember that Dordoi had finished above them in the last stage. A solo strike from Kalim Ullah was enough to secure a victory for the Pakistani side as Dordoi were unable to break the stubborn KRL defense down.
Dordoi went down 3-2 in a thriller to Hilal Al-Quds too two days later, setting up the KRL-Hilal match as a virtual semifinal in the tournament. It was a gritty game, as Hilal looked to break down the determined KRL defense but the back-line held on with calm and composure. The game looked set to be heading to extra-time until the reliable Kalim Ullah popped in with another goal to his name. As Hilal committed men forward in search of an equalizer, KRL’s winged wonder Muhammad Adil also took advantage and added to his tally as KRL finished with a comfortable 2-0 scoreline.
Set to play the formidable Balkan in the final, who have won all 5 of their matches and scored a whopping 20 goals en route to the final, KRL will be looking up to Samar Ishaq & Co. to continue with their impressive defensive displays. If the Balkan attack can be corked, Adil and Kalim can surely be counted on to create a goal or two and take KRL to a historic victory and trophy. Destiny awaits.