IPOH - Three-time champions Pakistan became the first team to qualify for the semifinals of the Asia Cup hockey tournament after defeating Malaysia 4-1 in their second Pool A match, here on Sunday. After this victory, Pakistan are atop Pool A with six points from two games ahead of Malaysia who have three points from as many games. Pakistan next play Chinese Taipei on Tuesday, while Malaysia will be up against Japan on the same day. South Korea will be up against India in a pool B match and the loser of the match is likely to meet Pakistan in the first semi-final on August 30.
For Pakistan, all the four goals came through field efforts from the sticks of M Zubair (32nd), M Dilber (46th), M Waqas (60th) and Shafqat Rasool (67th). Malaysia's lone goal was scored by M Razie Abd Rahim in the 26th minute.
The clash between Pakistan and Malaysia was an absorbing contest with both teams playing aggressively. The two teams produced entertaining, fast hockey much to the delight of the crowd gathered at the Sultan Azlan Shah stadium.
Pakistan got the first scoring chance in the 16th minute when they earned their first penalty corner, only to waste it. Another scoring opportunity went abegging for Pakistan soon when an unmarked M Dilber missed an open chance, hitting the ball wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.
But Malaysia were quick to capitalise on their chances and shocked Pakistan in the 26th minute when Muhammad Razie Abd Rahim broke the deadlock with a powerful low dragflick to the left of experienced Pakistan goalkeeper Salman Akbar from the hosts first penalty corner. Malaysia had a great chance of doubling their lead a few minutes later but an Mohd Fitri Sari shot wide with only Pakistan goalkeeper Akbar to beat.
Pakistan cashed in on Malaysia's missed opportunities and eqaulised in the 32nd minute through Zubair who was beautifully set up by veteran Shakeel Abbasi’s fine run from the right flank. Pakistan came out with more purpose in the second half and surged ahead in the 46th minute through a field goal from Dilber after he was set up by a Rasool’s brilliant solo run from the right flank.
Pakistan kept up the tempo and mounted continuous raids into the Malaysian citadel and their efforts paid dividends when Waqas made the scoreline 3-1. Rasool then joined the party and registered his name in the scoresheet just three minutes from the hooter to take the match beyond the reach of the home team. Malaysia did get two back-to-back penalty corners in the final minute of the match but failed to utilise both.
Earlier, the day started with Bangladesh’s defeat by the hands of the defending champions. Though, the result of the match was being anticipated, none expected such a humiliating defeat of Bengalis. Korea stroked the ball nine times in to Bangladeshi goal. Bangladesh failed to score a goal. For the winners, Jang Jong Hyun (31st minute, 42nd, 67th) and Hyun Hye Sung (21st, 35th) scored three and two goals respectively, while You Hyo Sik (4th), Jung Man Jae (52nd), captain Lee Sung II (69th) and Kim Young Jin (70th) each sounded the board once.
Although Korea dominated the match and had lion's share of possession but they were far from convincing. Bangladesh, on the other hand, were mostly busy in defending and had to thank their goalkeeper Md Zahid Hossain who denied the Koreans on numerous occasions to keep the margin of defeat on the lower side.
Meanwhile, in an earlier Pool A match, Japan defeated Chinese Taipei 5-1 to register their first win in the tournament. Japan took the lead in the 22nd minute through a field goal from Kei Kawakami before Chinese Taipei reduced parity seven minutes later Yuan-Fan Chen as both the sides went into half time locked at 1-1. After the change of ends it was all Japan as they scored four more goals to register their first points in the eight-nation event. Katsuyoshi Nagasawa restored Japan’s lead in the 48th minute through penalty corner conversion. Japan scored three more goals through field efforts from Ippei Fujimoto (57th), Shinji Kawauchi (59th) and Yasuhiro Nakayama (67th) to complete the tally.
Team M W D L GF GA GD Pts
Pakistan 2 2 0 0 11 1 10 6
Malaysia 2 1 0 1 11 6 5 3
Japan 2 1 0 1 5 8 -3 3
Chinese Taipei 2 0 0 2 3 15 -12 0
Team M W D L GF GA GD Pts
Korea 1 1 0 0 9 0 9 3
India 1 1 0 0 8 0 8 3
Oman 1 0 0 1 0 8 -8 0
Bangladesh 1 0 0 1 0 9 -9 0