[written by: Humeid Khan, Zain Khilji & Hashim Ghazi]
Week 2 came and went and saw Hejaz FC stake their claim to first place in the table. The boys in white have put in two solid performances en route to a perfect record so far, but face the offensive juggernaut and defending champ Samarra FC this week. A tale of two contrasting styles face off in the other early matchup with the Spaniards taking on the Turks. And the late night matchup features a pair of winless sides hoping for any sort of positives after a pair of dire displays in previous weeks. Before heading into this week's news, we have some unfortunate injury news to report:
Altamash Khan of Anatolia FC reaggravated a knee injury that forces him to withdraw from the League for the season. A replacement player has yet to be named.
Let's see how the rumours are shaping up heading into Matchweek 3.
ANATOLIA vs ANDALUSIA (8:45PM Field 4)
Despite coming off a huge 7-1 win, the atmosphere in Anatolia's locker room seemed bleak after Altamash Khan limped off the field in the first minute of the game. It seems he reaggravated his knee injury on which he had surgery the year before, forcing him to withdraw from the League this year. This will be quite a blow to the team that was going to rely on Altamash to anchor their defense alongside Shaheen Limbada. We wish Altamash a speedy recovery and hope to see him back on the BISL field next season. Aside from the injury news, Anatolia was firing on all cylinders; the new partnership of GM Zain Khilji and Fawad Akram is as formidable on the field as it sounded on paper. They have already combined for 10 points in 2 games, a level of production that has defences scratching their head trying to figure out how to stop it. Despite the 7-1 scoreline, Zahid Merchant was tested this game and made a flurry of incredible saves, holding Sham to just one goal. The upcoming game will be an excellent test for Anatolia who didn't end up on the right side of the result in either matchups against this week's foes last year. On the other side of the matchup, Andalusia is coming off a narrow loss in which the team could be seen huddled around long after the match had ended discussing ways to unlock an offense that relies too heavily on Omar² (GM Omar Sheikh and first round pick Omar El Askalany). Having Saad K back against Anatolia will certainly help in that regard as the sub will be filling in against for the Royal Blues this week. First-time goalkeeper Jibran Waqar has been a revelation in the early part of the season with his acrobatic saves, making the already formidable defense of Andalusia that much tougher to beat. Sheikh's team seems to have had no trouble picking up their identity from last season, an identity that seemed to be a big weakness for Anatolia last season who lost both fixtures against Andalusia's up-tempo playing style. It will be interesting to see if Anatolia's shorthanded defense can open Andalusia's offense, and help regain the lead over Anatolia in the points table.
SAMARRA vs HEJAZ (8:45PM Field 3)
The two sides that found themselves collecting all three points last week face off in Matchweek 3. Samarra showed that they are a force to be reckon with in an 8-2 battering of their opponents last week. GM Junaid Akram looks all the part to carry on his side's championship ambitions, thanks largely in part to the play of rookie Aadil Mohamed. Mohamed had a hat trick and added a helper in the Samarran's win, and looks like a true talisman for the side up front. Not to be lost in the heroics of the offense was a staunch defensive performance by the boys in Black. The team defended as a unit and gave little for the opponents to work with, allowing them to play the game at their pace and control the match. Atif Mian, despite nursing a bit of a knock, continued his stellar form with another goal and assist on the day. Both Aadil and Atif sit in the top three in the League in points thus far, and look to add to that tally against the Hejazis this week. Hejaz had an impressive display of their own last week en route to three points against Andalusia that brings them to sole control of the top of the table. The lilywhites handled Andalusia's press well and seemed as if they had been playing together for weeks. Credit to GM Taqi Ahmed for drafting a side that boasts familiarity and works well as a unit. It appears the side knows how to play together and to their strengths, which will only lead to more Ws. Rookie Hannan Ahmed had a strong display up front scoring the first BISL goal of his career and adding another helper as well. Hejaz may have uncovered a diamond in the rough in Ahmed who seems like the perfect compliment to Taqi and Nasir Rehman in midfield. If Hejaz continues to put in professional displays like the last few weeks, they will be a tough to knock out of the #1 spot. They face their toughest matchup today in Samarra this week, and if they can weather that storm, they will warrant the title of being the "team to beat" this season.
JERUSALEM vs SHAM (9:45PM Field 3)
Sham, who are used to being the ones to inflict damage, suffered a hefty defeat to the Anatolians last weekend. This has got to be the worse start of any team GM Muhammed Shah has been on, but to be fair, key absences have led to this downfall. Shah and Saif Syed were both unavailable in the 7-1 beating leaving Khizer Shahzad, who did not feature in game 1, at a disconnect from Sham's midfield. His efforts created a goal put in by sub Talha Kirmani but apart from that, they were rather ambitious often with no support. The season is still in the early stages and having their full squad may be enough to bring back their pre-season hype. Offense will be the focal point for their success this season with Khizer being the only goal scorer by trait. Shah and Ahmed Alvi will be required to contribute on that front without compromising solidity in the midfield. We hope to see the real Sham in full this weekend and as a result, establish more parity in the standings after week 3. Jerusalem were handed a similar fate in an 8-2 thrashing from Samarra but seemed the victim of their own poor organization. The sky blues look good in transition and keeping possession when they do have it, but seem to break shape too easily. We want to see GM Saqib Dadabhoy at the heart of the defence calling the shots and predicting danger as it comes. Too many times JFC were undone by a through ball down the wing which should be easy to prevent with the right shape. Although Salim Jarad did not feature in their previous match, they have enough options up front with Bassam Basit, Murtaza Tirimizi and the back bone of Abdo Menla to support them. We expect Saqib to pull out his tactics binder and play an unconventional method according to the pieces at his disposal. We are excited to see how he will make it work this week against the also pointless Sham in a battle to return amidst the standings.