One transactions to announce from week 4:
Fawad Akram, Assistant GM of Hejaz FC withdraws due to a hand injury. Hejaz FC pick Muhammad Chabayta as a replacement player.
Jerusalem FC vs. Andalusia FC (8:45PM on Field 3)
Andalusia remain the only team pointless in the league thus far, and look to finally have something positive to build upon heading into 2018. New recruit Sameer Masood was not able to make an impact in his first match back in BISL like he has in year’s past, despite leading the team in shots, but we are certain that will change this week. Masood combines effortlessly with his brother Humeid, and enjoys the role of playmaker more than being a striker. That Masood brothers will have to be at their best to beat the stingy defence of Jerusalem though. On paper, this Andalusia squad features quality in all facets of the game, yet on the field it just has not come together as they would like to. With names like Taqi Ahmed, Shaharyar Khan, and Furhan Azmat, not to mention the Masood brothers, you would expect a team that can cut you open with incisive passing and a fair share of goals. However, chances are hard to come by for this team, with Sameer Masood leading the team in shots on the season (with four) having played only one match. To be fair, the schedule has not been generous to them either, facing the three top scoring teams in the league in their first three matches. They face yet another high scoring squad in Jerusalem this week, and GM Junaid Mirza will once again be subject to a bevy of shots on target.
Hejaz FC vs. Anatolia FC (8:45PM on Field 4)
Hejaz had some unfortunate news last week with Fawad Akram withdrawing from the league due to a broken finger. GM Ibrahim Sardar had another scare in the buildup to last Sunday, with young star Omar El-Askalany facing a late fitness test before gametime. Omar proved to be fine, scoring a brace and running amok against Sham last week, and even without Akram, los Blancos looked great. They challenged Sham all match, and many believe that they would have comfortably won if Fawad Akram was dressed. Despite not collecting any of the three points up for grabs, it was a spirited display they can build upon heading into the break. With Akram out for the season, the club calls up rookie Muhammad Chabayta from their youth squad – we know very little about the 20 year old beyond the fact that at 6’2 200lbs, the guy is a beast. Sardar has a knack for picking up talent from obscurity, with previous ‘unknowns’ like the Masood brothers, the Akram brothers, and this year’s diamond in the rough El-Askalany, so we can only assume that Chabayta is a baller. With his size, we expect him to play a more physical and direct game than the man he replaces, and we all anxiously await his debut in white and orange on Sunday against the shorthanded Anatolia.
Sham FC vs. Samarra FC (9:45PM on Field 3)
Sham once again came through in victory last week, but were not pleased with their performance. After the match, the team essentially had an impromptu team meeting discussing what can they do better as a unit – not something you would expect from a team second in the table. However, Muhammad Shah & Co. recognize the talent and depth they have in this side, and want to make sure they iron out any bad tendencies before a big matchup this Sunday. Any team that features Shah, Ahmed Alvi, and Hassan and Ali Chaudhry should have title aspirations from day one, and though the table shows they’ve been quality, the team still feels like they haven’t hit their stride yet. Against an underrated Hejaz side, the Orangemen needed two late goals – including a clinical finish by Ahmed Alvi to put the side ahead with less than two minutes to play – to get the full three points. They cannot afford to leave it until so late this week against the well-oiled machine of Samarra FC. The entire squad will have to be sharp and focused on playing a complete game. This group knows they have what it takes to pull off the upset, but it requires a determined effort from one through ten. It’s rare a team with sort of quality heads into a matchup as an underdog, but they will have to show their true mettle in the ‘six-pointer’ against Samarra this week.
Just when you thought these guys couldn’t get any better, they show up and put up a clean sheet to go with five goals. Though a lot can be said about stars Danish Khan and Khizer Shahzad, newcomers Syed Murtaza Tirmizi and Hussam Ayubi have been unbelievable in their rookie campaigns. Tirmizi leads the league in goals, and is just the sort of ruthless finisher any playmaker would love to play alongside. On the other side of the pitch, Ayubi has been remarkable in defense, and has anchored the side while playing it out from the back as well. Also, lost in the shuffle has been the solid play of Hamza Waheed. After Commissioner Zahid Merchant was forced to withdraw from the league due to injury, GM Umer Jabbar turned to Waheed out of desperation, hoping the team’s loaded offense would carry the inexperienced ‘keeper to high scoring victories. Hamza has shown that he has the tools needed to be a quality goalie in this league, and deserves as much credit as the next guy for the Samarrans sitting at the top of the table. The league leaders face their toughest challenge yet in second-place Sham FC this week – let’s see if they collect another three points to a perfect record heading into the break.
There you have it – despite it only being week four of the season, there is a lot to play for. Let’s see who closes out 2017 with a bang (or a whimper).