Pakistan overcame a gritty New Zealand in the Sultan of Johor Cup 2023 and were lucky to ‘escape’ with a 3-2 victory after the Kiwis pooled their resources to score two late goals at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium on Saturday

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The Pakistanis had shattered New Zealand’s confidence early in the game with two brilliant penalty corner goals. Drag-flick specialist Arbaz Ahmad sounded the board in the 7th minute and Basharat Ali extended the lead the 30th minute.

It was Arbaz’s third goal in the two-day old tournament.

Muhammad Khan continued Pakistan’s domination by exerting more pain on the Kiwis with a 47th penalty corner conversion to take a 3-0 lead with just 13 minutes from the final whistle.

While the match was evenly balanced in the first quarter, the Pakistanis had the upper hand after that. The Junior Asia Cup 2023 runner-up dominated ball possession although the Kiwis showed glimpses of breaking the defensive wall with quick counter attacks.

They had close to four penalty corners throughout the match but could not get their act right. However, New Zealand surprised their opponents in the last two minutes of play with two quick goals to reduce the deficit as the Pakistanis prevailed 3-2 victors.

Gus Nelson sneaked the ball past goalkeeper Ali Raza in the 58th minute in a goalmouth melee to reduce the score 3-1 and Patrick Ward ruffled the Pakistanis momentum with the second goal from a penalty corner conversion with only 16 seconds remaining on the board.

Pakistan have now pooled four points with this win. They had on Friday played to a 3-3 against India while New Zealand also amassed three points.

The Pakistanis, who have eight players in the side that featured in the Hangzhou Asian Games, will go head on against Malaysian young tigers on Tuesday.

Malaysia missed out on its first win at the Sultan of Johor Cup (SOJC) 2023 under-21 (U-21) hockey tournament after narrowly losing 2-3 to New Zealand at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium.

Down as the hosts, New Zealand first opened the scoring in the sixth minute through a penalty corner goal completed by Luke Aldred.

Stunned by the goal, the Young Tigers squad regrouped and only needed a minute to equalize as a result of national team captain Muhamad Faris Harizan’s explosive stroke penalty.

However, before the end of the first quarter, New Zealand regained the lead thanks to Scott Cosslett’s goal which ended the penalty corner.

In the second quarter, the National Youth Squad increased the tempo of the game to put pressure on New Zealand.

As a result of that pressure, Malaysia managed to rise again to tie the score at 2-2 thanks to a goal by Faris Harizan who completed a penalty corner in the 24th minute.

Entering the third quarter, it was James Hickson’s turn to score as a scorer to put New Zealand back in the lead in the 33rd minute.

The national youth squad managed to create several opportunities to score goals but were denied by the brilliance of New Zealand’s goalkeeper, Luke Elmes.

Starting the fourth quarter, Malaysia increased the intensity of the game forcing New Zealand to defend more in order not to concede when receiving a series of attacks from the hosts.

However, the efforts of the National Youth Squad were unsuccessful in finding an equalizing goal and had to accept the defeat.

“Overall we were a bit unlucky, we failed to at least steal a point in tonight’s game.

“Anyway there are many positive things the players have done throughout the match today and we have to look back and analyze the mistakes we made so that we can improve in the next match, against India tomorrow.

“Regarding penalty corners, we gave a lot to the opposition and we only conceded two and the others we managed to defend as a group.

“So now we can’t allow the opponent to get a penalty corner and that element we need to look at and review to not give more to the opponent,” said head coach Muhamad Amin Rahim.

Tomorrow, Malaysia will face the defending champions, India in the second match of Group B at 8.35pm at Taman Daya Hockey Stadium.

IND vs MAS, Sultan of Johor Cup 2023: India defeats Malaysia 3-1

India, which began with a 3-3 draw against Pakistan, moved to top of the points table in Group B with four points after two games.

 B match at the Sultan of Johor Cup on Saturday. | Photo Credit: Asian Hockey Federation

Defending champion India came from behind to beat Malaysia 3-1 in its second Group B match at the Sultan of Johor Cup in Johor Bahru on Saturday.

After India’s opening game ended in a nail-biting 3-3 draw against Pakistan, it looked to bag the elusive three points with a confident start in the first quarter against Malaysia. Forward Angad Bir Singh led India’s charge in the forward-line, working in tandem with Aditya to set up goal-scoring chances. But an alert Malaysian goalie Rafaizul Mohamad stopped India from taking a lead. The host broke the deadlock after a splendid goal by Suhaimi Irfan Shahmie in the 13th minute.

The first few minutes of the second quarter saw India create chances in the circle with Angad winning two back-to-back Penalty Corners (PCs). India won three more PCs as the quarter progressed but a resolute Malaysian defence kept India at bay. India’s breakthrough finally came in the 28th minute when Aditya Lalage nudged in a blazing cross from Vishnukant Singh to score the equalizer as the first half ended at 1-1.

Malaysia began the third quarter aggressively and was rewarded with a PC. However, the Indian defence held firm and prevented Malaysia from scoring again. The following minute, India got a PC thanks to skipper Uttam Singh and Gurjot’s front-row combination, but Amandeep Lakra missed the shot. In the 37th minute, Uttam’s fine circle skills earned India another PC, and this time Lakra was on point, powering the flick past Malaysian goalie Rafaizul. With a 2-1 lead, Uttam continued to exploit the wings, initiating a blazing run down the right wing, picking out Aditya Lalage in the centre of the circle, but the keeper was quick to rush out and swat the shot away.

The fourth quarter was dominated by India. Aditya attempted to extend India’s lead in the 50th minute with a shot, but Rafaizul saved it. As the quarter progressed, India’s attack continued, and it was rewarded when Gurjot Singh won a PC with seven minutes remaining in the game, and Rohit stepped up to double India’s lead as it won the game 3-1.

India moved to top of the points table in Group B with four points after two games. Pakistan, which beat New Zealand 3-2, also has four points but is behind India due to inferior goal difference.

India next faces New Zealand in its final group match on Monday.

Group A has Germany, Australia, Great Britain and South Africa. Top two teams from each group will progress to the semifinals.

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