Pakistan ensure last-four spot, Japan keep hope

Muscat, Oct 24 – Japan inched closer to a place in the semifinal of the Hero Asian Champions Trophy as they held Pakistan 1-1 at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex on Wednesday. The draw ensured Pakistan of their last-four spot with seven points from four matches. Japan now have four points from as many games with one game to play against Oman on Thursday. Japan’s fortunes will also depend on the India-Korea match as well. If Korea lose to India, Japan will go through as it stands. A Korean victory against India will make the Oman-Japan match a virtual quarterfinal for Japan.
Japan’s Riku Tamura was named the man-of-the-match for his performance.
Japan showed tremendous determination and resilience to put Pakistan under pressure early in the game.
The Pakistanis were in great spirits after their big win against Oman but soon realised that Japan were a different beast altogether.
In the 12th minute, Japan’s Kenji Kitazato put the Asian Games gold medallists ahead with a field goal.
Thereafter, Pakistan were under pressure to find the equaliser and pushed forward with skipper Mohammad Rizwan Sr.
However, the equaliser eluded them until the end of the first quarter.
Japan continued their aggressive style of play in the second quarter as well.
Japan attacked with Kazumasa Matsumoto making a solo run in the 23rd minute down the right flank but was thwarted by Pakistani defenders.
Pakistan’s advancing efforts were rewarded with a penalty corner in the 25th minute.
Pakistan’s Mubashar Ali drag-flicked for the equaliser as the match was back to even.
The Pakistanis looked to go ahead hitting the Japan defence at will.
Both teams fought intensely to gain the edge in the game with swift attacks launched from both ends.
In the third quarter, it was expected that Japan and Pakistan would go for the kill.
It is the quarter where most games have been decided and is sort of decisive in many ways.
Japan were relentless in their barrage of shots on the Pakistani goal.
Pakistan wasted a penalty corner opportunity in the 43rd minute as the drag-flick was blocked by Japan goalkeeper Takashi Yoshikawa.
Japan began raiding the Pakistani defence with long balls and precision shots.
It was a desperate search for goal from both teams, especially from Japan.
The Japanese were struggling with midfield possession though as they seemed to lose the ball quite often.
Japan also let a penalty corner chance go abegging in the 51st minute.
The teams finally were forced to share points with the breakaway goal eluding them.

Haridev Pushparaj