IPOH - New Zealand posted their third successive victory by prevailing 3-1 over an erratic Pakistan in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament on Sunday. By virtue of this win, New Zealand not only boosted their points tally to nine but also consolidated their position on top of the standings.
After taking a three-goal lead four minutes into the second session, the Black Sticks had to ward off numerous Pakistani raids from which the Asian champions could score only once. New Zealand had earlier outplayed India and Argentina in their previous matches, while Pakistan has three points from their win against Argentina.
Ryan Archibald opened the scoring off a pass from Arun Panchia in the eighth minute and Andy Hayward converted a penalty corner two minutes later to help New Zealand race to a 2-0 lead. Pakistan missed a good scoring chance in the 13th minute when a cross from Muhammad Waqas drifted across the goalmouth with two Pakistan strikers unable to push it in.
Pakistan forced two penalty corners but M Imran and skipper Sohail Abbas failed to make an impression with their shots on the New Zealand goal. New Zealand came close to scoring two minutes into the second half when Hayward’s shot rebounded off the post, but two minutes later Nick Wilson made it 3-0 by capitalising on a penalty corner rebound.
Pakistan reduced the margin with a fine deflection by Haseem Khan on a shot from Shafaqat Rasool in the 44th minute, but their domination in the second half failed to produce any more goals. The best chance came in the 55th minute when Waqas got the ball in a crowded circle, but feebly pushed the ball straight to the goalkeeper.
Two minutes later, Rasool sent a reverse drive just wide. Pakistan team manager Akhtar Rasool, a former Olympian, said his strikers missed several scoring chances, even though the half-line gave a good account of itself. “It was a bad day for us, there were so many misses from the strikers,” Rasool said. “We are building the team for the Olympics and there are several youngsters in the side, who should learn from what went wrong in this match,” he said.
Pakistan captain Abbas said the new-look team did not possess a lot of experience. “It is a young team and full of energy, but in the end it came down to availing chances,” he said. Meanwhile, in the second match of the day Facundo Callioni scored a goal in the dying seconds of play to clinch a 4-3 victory for Argentina over South Korea in a fast-paced encounter.
Callioni deflected in Martin Vila’s pass inside the circle just five seconds from the hooter to give Argentina their initial points after two straight losses, while the Koreans just have one point from three outings. In a match that saw the lead change hands several times, Argentina scored through Martin Vila (10th minute), Agustin Mazzalli (34th) and Callioni (46th and 70th minutes), while the Koreans got their goals from Nam Hyun-Woo (4th) and Jang Jong-Hyun (42nd and 48th).
Five-time champions India squandered chances galore to slump to a 2-3 defeat against Great Britain in the last match of the day.
Playing a brisk game, India failed to capitalise on several opening created by their strikers, faltering in the final execution on numerous occasion. After bouncing back from a two-goal deficit to draw parity, India gave it away through a defensive lapse in the 62nd minute when three defenders were beaten on top of the circle by a through ball that Nick Catlin picked up to score Great Britain’s match-winner.
Great Britain earlier scored two goals through penalty corners from Glen Kirkham (28th minute) and Ben Hawes (43rd). But India struck back to score twice in the space of four minutes through a penalty corner conversion from VR Raghunath (55th) and a dazzling deflection by SV Sunil (59th) to make a stunning return to the match. With this win, Great Britain moved into the second position with four points from two matches, behind New Zealand who clinched their third successive victory by defeating Pakistan 3-1 earlier in the day.
New Zealand 3
South Korea 3
Great Britain 3