PESHAWAR: Pakistan finished fourth after a 2-1 loss to Japan in the position match of the 4-Nation International Festival of Hockey played at Melbourne’s State Netball Hockey Centre, Australia.
According to a facsimile of the Pakistan Hockey Federation, in the position match Japan came from behind to defeat the Green Shirts 2-1 to take third position while Pakistan got a poor fourth position in as many teams.
The match started at an electric pace with three shots on the goal within the first four minutes. Japan had a penalty corner in the first minute thanks to skipper Muhammad Irfan’s mistake. Goal Keeper Amjad dived to his right to block the low hard flick. Atiq Arshad after receiving a ball on the left side of the circle shot straight at the Japanese net minder on the near post.
Next, another Pakistani defensive lapse led to an easy chance at the top of the striking zone but Yamada inexplicably shot it over the bar. Next chance came to Pakistan in the 13th minute and they went ahead.
A crash ball from right reached Ajaz on the far side of the circle and he fired it in the small gap between the goal keeper and the near post.
Pakistan’s joy was short lived. Very next minute, brilliant Tanaka, who had a brace in Japan’s 3-1 win over the same rivals in the league stage, equalized with one of the goals of this festival. After covering good ground, he beautifully side stepped Muhammad Irfan to enter the circle and with a back hander found the top left corner of the goal.
Japan had another open play opportunity as well as a penalty corner but it stood 1-1 after the first quarter. Fast pole to pole game continued in the next 15 minutes with both the sides enjoying periods of ascendancy. Japan had more opportunities but the score line remained intact.
Both the teams were tied 1-1 at the end of the first-half play. In the third quarter, Pakistan had three good chances to score. Bhutta fumbled twice at the top of the circle. Shajeeh’s attempt hit the side netting.
Again, the Japanese held the upper hand. Apart from open play opportunities, they had four penalty corners including three in a row but Amjad continued with his wonderful display under the bar in this tournament.
It was all to play for in the last period. Finally a penalty corner arrived for Pakistan, first in two game against Japan. The ball rebounded thrice off the custodian’s pads, and they had their second penalty corner. This time the attempt off the rebound hit the side netting.
To find the winner, Pakistani captain Muhammad Irfan threw himself up in the attack, and he was instrumental in a couple of circle penetrations. But the team was made to pay for his adventure.
With just three minutes left, Murata got all the time at the right edge of the circle. He sounded the far side of the board with a well-placed hit.
Pakistan got a golden chance to put it even via their third penalty corner but Irfan’s flick was declared dangerous as it hit the body of the rusher from Japan side and thus the threat over. It was a well-deserved win for Japan.
SCORERS: Japan 2-Pakistan 1
Japan: Kenta Tanaka (14-minute) and Kazuma Murata (57-minute)
Pakistan: Ajaz Ahmed (13-minute).—APP