Last-gasp Waheed keeps Pakistan’s unbeaten run intact – Sport

IPOH: Forward Rana Waheed Ashraf scored from a penalty corner with a minute left to play to secure a 1-1 draw for Pakistan against Japan at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup on Tuesday that kept his side’s unbeaten run at the tournament intact.

Japan had taken the lead from Ken Nagayoshi’s drag-flick conversion in the 33rd minute but Roelant Oltmans’ Pakistan came strongly in the last quarter with Waheed pouncing on the fifth penalty corner earned by his side.

Despite the draw keeping Pakistan on top of the round-robin table, ahead of Japan on goal difference, Oltmans wasn’t satisfied.

“We can’t be relying on set pieces all the time,” the Dutchman, whose side had won their opening two games against Malaysia and South Korea respectively, told reporters after the match.

“My players should have pla­yed better, even by trying to get more field goals. As a whole, I’m not impressed with my players’ per­formance against Japan today.”

Pakistan next face Canada on Wednesday and Oltmans stressed he wants his side to press the issue.

“Playing catch-up is something that I don’t like, and it puts our team at risk whenever we play teams that have immense pace with them,” he added.

“This has never been my strategy and to ensure that we don’t play in that way, we really need to start scoring early and dominate through our possession and defence for the rest of the match. This is what I prefer to see from my players and not playing catch-up.”

Japan bossed the first two quarters but found the going tough against Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Hannan Shahid, captain Ammad Shakeel Butt, Ajaz Ahmad, and Abu Mahmood had their wings clipped by the Japanese defenders but kept goalkeeper Takumi Kitagawa busy between the posts.

The Japanese had four penalty corner opportunities in the second quarter but failed to score from any. Drag-flick specialist Nagayoshi, however, made no mistake with their fifth by guiding a powerful drive to the right of goalkeeper Ishtiaq Abdullah Khan.

Pakistan began pushing for the leveller and after a penalty stroke was overturned on review, Waheed found the goal they desperately wanted.

“Pakistan were aggressive, but we kept pressing them,” Japan coach Yoshihiro Anai said after the match. “We had more chances, but we struggled to convert them. We should have won the match.”

Pakistan and Japan are tied on seven points after three matches with Malaysia a point behind in third after their 6-4 win against New Zealand on Tuesday.

South Korea picked up their first points by edging Canada 1-0 in the day’s other match.

Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2024

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