Pakistan survive Malaysian fightback to enter final

MUSCAT, OCT 27 – A confident Pakistan survived a late comeback by Malaysia to power into the final of the Asian Champions Trophy in Muscat on Saturday. Pakistan prevailed 3-1 in the penalty shoot-out after a 4-4 draw in regulation time in the first semifinal at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex. In the shoot-out, Toseeq Arshad, Abu Mahmood and Ammad Butt sounded the board for Pakistan, while Ajaz Ahmed and Mohammed Irfan Jr. missed out. For Malaysia, only Aiman Rozemi Nik found the target as Firhem Ashari, Faizal Saari and Shahril Saabah failed to put the ball past Pakistan goalkeeper Imran Butt.
Malaysia tried to make a comeback in the shoot-out too, but goalkeeper Hairi Rahman’s efforts fell short.
A relieved Pakistan manager Hasan Sardar said they gave away some easy goals for Malaysia under pressure.
“We gave away some easy goals for Malaysia after taking such good lead. We played some good attacking hockey in the end,” he said.
Malaysian coach Roelant Oltmans said his team deserved a better result after the comeback.
“We were unlucky not to win the match after our brilliant play,” the former World Cup winning Dutch coach said. Pakistan’s Muhammad Irfan was adjudged the man-of-the-match in the semifinal.
Earlier, it was flurry of goals in the first quarter as Pakistan netted three goals after Malaysia took the lead in the second minute of the match.
Faizal Saari struck early for Malaysians with a nice field goal.
Pakistan, undeterred by the early blow, regrouped fast Muhammad Irfan Jr hit the equaliser through a field goal in the sixth match.
Aleem Bilal put Pakistan in front with a goal from a penalty corner in the 12th minute.
Abu Mahmood stunned the Malaysians with a field goal in the 15th minute to make it 3-1. In the 20th minute, Aleem Bilal struck his second goal from another penalty corner as Pakistan went up 4-1.
Then the match saw a great comeback by Malaysians as Tengku Tajuddin reduced the deficit through a field goal in the 43rd minute and Aiman Rozemi Nik made it 4-3 as Malaysian fans roared.
Faizal Saari struck the equalizer through a penalty corner in the 56th minute to leave Pakistan stunned as the match ended 4-4.
However, Pakistan players kept their cool and triumphed in the penalties to make their fifth straight final of the Asian Champions Trophy.

Anuroop Athiparambath