Ipoh (Malaysia): Three-time champions Pakistan became the first team to qualify for the semi-finals of the Asia Cup hockey tournament after defeating Malaysia 4-1 in their second Pool A match, 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. For the winners, all the four goals came through field efforts from the sticks of Muhammad Zubair (32nd), Muhammad Dilber (46th), Muhammad Waqas (60th) and Shafqat Rasool (67th). Malaysia’s goal was scored by Muhammad Razie Abd Rahim. Pakistan got the first scoring chance in the 16th minute, only to waste it.
Pakistan soon when an unmarked Muhammad 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.
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 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.