KARACHI: PIA got their Pakistan Premier Football League campaign off to a flying start after they defeated Habib Bank Limited (HBL) 2-0 here on Thursday.
Goals by Mohammad Ishtiaq and Pakistan international striker Shakir Lashari helped PIA to a comfortable victory in a match they dominated despite having only had a four-day training camp prior to the league.
“Shakir was in great form,” PIA coach Shamim Khan told Dawn after the game. “We’re delighted to get off to a winning start since we didn’t get enough time to train.
“The fitness levels are still not up to the mark but so far, so good.”
Under cloudy skies at the People’s Stadium, Ishtiaq opened the scoring in the 27th minute when he picked up the ball on the left before unleashing a drive that went in on the far post to leave HBL goalkeeper Sajid Hussain with no chance.
The game was played in midfield for the rest of the first-half with both sides showing little endeavour up front.
In the second-half, HBL came out with a little more purpose but failed to test the PIA defence with their efforts coming mostly from long-range shots.
Shakir put the seal on PIA’s victory when he connected with a cross from Nasrullah with a looping header that left Sajid stranded on the near post.
Nasrullah, who had been the lynchpin in PIA’s midfield, came close to scoring when his rasping shot went narrowly over Sajid’s goal.
HBL then created a chance of their own when a cross from the left found Mubashir and his diving shot hit the crossbar.
Ishtiaq had a great chance to double his tally but Sajid, who had to receive medical attention after a collision with PIA substitute Riaz Ahmed minutes earlier, stopped his effort from point-blank.
“We have signed nine players in the close-season so it will take time for them to gel in and play as a team,” HBL manager Yousuf Khan said. “We are hoping that results improve with time.”
The game was the only fixture to be held on Thursday. Four more matches are scheduled for Friday.
Muslim FC v Baloch FC (Mali Bagh Ground, Quetta); ZTBL v KRL (Jinnah Football Stadium, Islamabad); KESC v Navy (People’s Football Stadium, Karachi); NBP v KPT (KPT Football Stadium, Karachi).