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Australia lucky to hold Pakistan

May 31, 2005 20:38 IST

Olympic champions Australia were lucky to hold a fired up Pakistan 2-2 in a thrilling match in the Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament at the Bukit Jalil stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

Pakistan produced a consistent top flight attack to dominate the more fancied squad even though they went into the break tied 1-1.

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While their forwards moved in cohesion, the midfield and defence stood out admirably crippling the Aussie sorties time and again.

Pakistan should have broken the ice in the opening minute itself when Tariq Aziz put Shakeel Abbasi through, but the striker narrowly missed the mark.

However, it was not a long wait for the three time champions and leaders of this tournament to forge ahead, when Abbasi deflected home a spectacular Rehan Butt cross in the third minute (1-0).

The Pakistan right-winger constantly dodged the Australia defence and entered the rival striking circle, and with the crafty Quetta-born Abbasi was their nemesis.

One sure shot goal was disallowed by umpire Javed Sheikh of India, when Abbasi deflected a Butt centre past goalkeeper Stephen Lambert. The umpire ruled the cross dangerous, much to Australia's relief.

Pakistan could have increased their lead on a few more occasions, but first Butt pushed wide followed by misses from center-forward Tariq Aziz and then Mudassar Ali Khan.

Australia came close to levelling the score thrice but Travis Brooks and then Nathan Eglington missed the target. Pakistan goalkeeper Salman Akbar also brought about a great save to foil captain Brent Livermore.

The Aussies eventually found the equaliser in the 28th minute off their second penalty-corner as Luke Doerner flicked low to Akbar's right (1-1).

Late in the first half, Pakistan earned two penalty-corners, but were unlucky to take the lead as Mohd. Imran struck the crosspiece.

Pakistan continued with the same rhythm and fluency in the second session with their forwards utilising the flanks with some superb down the line runs. Adnan Zakir, in tandem with Shabbir Husain and the overlapping midfielder Dilawar, had the Australian defence on the backfoot.

Pakistan shot into the lead in the 42nd minute when a penalty-corner was awarded after Aziz was stick checked in the circle by Aaron Hopkins. Mohd Imran this time made no mistake giving his side lead again.

The Aussies, defending champions here, fought back tooth and nail to draw level, but Pakistan's defence stood out, but only just.

The equaliser came in the 63rd minute when Livermore converted a set piece penalty-corner, thus forcing Pakistan to their first draw in the tournament.

Pakistan now have ten points from four matches, while Australia are in the second place with eight points.

Pakistan next play arch rivals India on Wednesday.

Australia coach Barry Dancer said it was a good game and he was satisfied with the performance of his team.

"We hope to make the final and would like to retain the crown here," Dancer said.

He added that they were building up for the Chennai Champions Trophy in December and would then focus on the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Pakistan coach Tahir Zaman said his side played a better game and the Australians were lucky to split points.

"We were the superior team and should have recorded a fourth straight win, but for some misses," Zaman said.

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