MUSCAT, October 27: Two-time winners Pakistan entered the final of the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Muscat 2018 by overcoming Malaysia 3-1 in the shootout after a 4-4 draw in the regulation period at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex here on Friday.
Leading 4-1 at half-time, Pakistan faced a late rally from Malaysia, who equalized with four minutes from the end to take the issue into the shootout. Pakistan scored thrice in their five chances, while Malaysia could only shoot on target once in four attempts. The fifth Malaysian shot was not required to be taken as Pakistan had gained a winning lead.
Penalty corner flicker Aleem Bilal (12th and 20th minutes) twice sent soaring drag-flicks into the net, while Muhammad Irfan Jr. (sixth minute) and Abu Mahmood (15th minute) scored a goal each in open play go give Pakistan a big lead at half-time.
Some defensive lapses by Pakistan against the fast-moving Malaysian allowed space for Malaysia to score two field goals in the space of one minute. Tengku Tajuddin capitalized on a rebound in the 43rd minute and Aiman Nik Rozemi was on target off a short pass within a minute.
Faizal Saari, who had given Malaysia the initial lead in the second minute, came back to convert a penalty corner in the 56th minute to make it 4-4. Saari had opened the scoring in the second minute when he capped his fine solo run with a flick that beat onrushing goalkeeper Imran Butt to sound the boards.
Muhammad Irfan Jr. equalized for Pakistan in the sixth minute when he received a fine cross from Ajaz Ahmad in the goalmouth and made no mistake in deflecting it into the goal.
Aleem Bilal converted Pakistan’s first penalty corner with a rasping drag-flick into the net in the 12th minute and Abu Mehmood beat the goalkeeper with a powerful reverse shot from the top of the circle in the 15th minute to make it 3-1 in the first quarter.
Bilal got into goal-scoring action again in the 20th minute with a penalty corner flick into the net to boost Pakistan’s lead, but drama was to unfold when Malaysia came back strongly in the second half.
In the shootout, Toseeq Abbas and Ammad Butt scored with their shots, while Abu Mahmood was obstructed by the Malaysian goalkeeper and led to a penalty stroke that was converted by Bilal. Ajaz Ahmad and Muhammad Irfan Jr missed on their attempts.
For Malaysia, only Aiman Nik Rozemi was able to score, but Firhan Ashari, Faizal Saari and Shahril Saabah faltered in the shootout.
Pakistan’s manager Hasan Sardar praised the team for keeping their nerves in the shootout.
“It was a good game as we played attacking hockey and opened a big lead. But we conceded some goals that should not have been there, which put the boys under pressure,” said,” said Pakistan manager Hasan Sardar.
“The players then held their nerves and performed well to win the shootout,” Sardar said.
Roelant Oltmans, coach of the Malaysian team, said his team deserved to be in the final, but squandered the opportunities.
“We played well to create enough chances to win the match in the regulation period, but we did not capitalize on the opportunities in the first half,” said Oltmans. “Under pressure, we played better in the second half.”
“We were below par in the shootout. That’s why we did not make the semi-finals,” Oltmans said.