Pakistan rout Holland in six-nation hockey
Former World champions Pakistan earned sweet revenge over Holland for their 5-2 defeat in last year's Champions Trophy by whipping the current World and Olympic champions 3-0 in their opening match of the Six-nation Invitational hockey tournament at the National hockey stadium.in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur, on Friday.
In other matches on the opening day of the tournament, a dress rehearsal for the February 24-March 9 World Cup, Australia trounced New Zealand 4-2 while hosts Malaysia prevailed over Japan 2-1.
Following the defeat, Holland will have to beat New Zealand on Saturday to entertain hopes of qualifying for next week's final.
Holland, without their trump card Bram Lomas, failed to take advantage of ten penalty-corners awarded to them.
Kashif Jawad took advantage of Holland's sloppy defence to score Pakistan's opening goal in the 10th minute after receiving a through pass from Pakistan's all-time great Shahbaz Ahmed.
The four-time World Cup champions maintained the momentum and increased the lead in the 24th minute when a failed attempt by Kashif Jawad was picked up nicely by 23-year-old Saqlain Muhammad, who hammered the ball past Holland's Guus Vogels to make it 2-0.
Down 0-2 at the breather, Holland were better organised in the second session but were unable to make an impression on the Pakistan goal. And when they did beat the defence, goalkeeper Qasim Muhammad proved a hard nut to crack.
In fact, there was nothing much Pakistan did right through the second half, except that they scored for the third time seven minutes before the final hooter.
Their penalty-corner specialist Sohail Abbas, who excelled in defence, made no mistakes with his fifth try with his drag flick past goalkeeper Guss Vogels to complete the rout.
Australia down New Zealand
In the opening match of the tournament, Australia got off to a rousing start, beating New Zealand 4-2.
Striker Michael McCann and Jamie Dwyer improved their chances of being selected for the February 24-March 9 World Cup by scoring a brace of goals each.
The Aussies led 2-0 at half-time.
New Zealand attempted a strong recovery, scoring twice in the second half to tie the match at two goals apiece, but Dwyer found the net twice in the last five minutes to seal victory for the Kookaburras.
In the second match of the day, hosts Malaysia prevailed over Japan 2-1.
McCann opened the scoring in the 21st minute from a field goal and then made it 2-0 in the 26th from a penalty-corner.
In the second half, the Kiwis presurised the Aussie defence and were rewarded in the 45th minute when Brett Leaver converted a penalty-stroke.
The goal spurred them and Phillip Burrows did well to score from a field goal in the 61st minute to draw level.
But there joy was not to last long as Dwyer sounded the boards in the 65th minute off a penalty-corner before rounding off the tally a minute from the hooter from a field goal.
Coach Barry Dancer was happy with the outcome of his team's first big match of the year.
"It was a good first half for us. We controlled the game with strong possession and sustained attack, but we made too many skill errors and poor choices to force the play which gave New Zealand the opportunity to counter attack in the second half," he said.
"In the end we re-established our selves, but we need to be able to sustain our base game to maintain our dominance of matches," he added.
The Australians had a number of good opportunities in the first half but were thwarted by the New Zealand goalkeeper.
Australia face Japan on Saturday in their second match.
Malaysia scrape past fighting Japan
Malaysia got off to a winning start when they edged Japan 2-1 in an entertaining second match of the day.
But Japan did give the hosts a fright with their direct style of hockey. Had they been sharper in front of goal, the end result would have been different.
Malaysia were dealt with an early blow when halfback Nor Azlan Bakar limped off the pitch due to a hamstring problem. But their determination paid dividends when they were awarded a penalty-stroke in the 10th minute after skipper Mirnawan Nawawi’s attempt at goal struck a Japanese defender on the
goal line and umpire Nigel Iggo had no hesitation in awarding a 'stroke'. Chua Boon Huat sent his attempt into the right hand corner of the Japanese goal, giving goalkeeper Jun Takahasi no chance at all.
But the Japanese were undeterred and kept pressing the Malaysia defence. However they failed to make much headway especially from the five penalty-corners they were awarded in the first half.
It was different story though in the second half as Japan took only three minutes to find the equalizer through skipper Takahiko Yamabori.
Malaysia were stunned and took a while to recover from the goal. They were fortunate that Japan kept firing blanks despite having the upper hand. And they were made to pay dearly for their misses when Chua scored the winner in the 62nd minute.
"We were fortunate to win today; no question about that. It is just that Japan failed to make use of their chances.
"The early exit of Azlan created some problems for us in defence as we had to shuffle the players around," said Malaysian coach Paul Lissek.