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 March 3, 2002 | 1840 IST

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Pakistan stay in hunt for semis berth

Four-time champions Pakistan kept themselves in the hunt for a semi-final berth in the men's hockey World Cup, beating Spain 2-0 in a Pool A match at the National stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

The victory saw Pakistan, Argentina and Germany level on 12 points, with Germany playing pool leaders the Netherlands later in the day.

In other matches in the pool, Argentina also kept their hopes alive with a 3-1 victory over New Zealand, while South Africa beat Belgium 3-0.

The Pakistanis wasted chances galore and had to wait till late in the match to clinch the issue.

After a goalless first half, Ali Raza put Pakistan ahead in the 60th minute. Muhammad Saqlain, playing at centre forward, forced Pakistan's fifth penalty-corner as he was wrongly tackled by a Spanish defender. With Sohail Abbas unable to taste success twice before, Raza stepped up and took the shot which beat goalkeeper Bernardino Herrera.

Minutes later Pakistan goalkeeper Muhammad Qasim brought off an outstanding save off a crisp shot from Juan Escarre.

Pakistan maintained the pressure and stormed the Spanish goal. And three minutes from time they were rewarded for their perseverance. Saqlain set up the goal, sending a precise pass to Muhammad Sarwar, who, in turn, squared across the Spanish goalmouth for Atif Bashir to tap into goal.

With this defeat, Spain's chances of earning a last four berth grew slim. They play Argentina next on March 5 and even a win may not be enough. Pakistan, who had lost two successive matches after three straght victories, play Germany the same day.

Jorge Lombi scores sixth goal of the tournament

Ace penalty-corner exponent Jorge Lombi gave Argentina the lead against New Zaland in the third minute with only his second penalty-corner conversion of the tournament. That goal took his tournament tally to six, the highest so far. But the Kiwis drew level six minutes later, with Philip Burrows also scoring off a penalty-corner.

Matias Vita regained the lead for Argentina four minutes before half-time while Mario Almada put the issue beyond doubt with a field goal four minutes from the end.

Argentina play Spain on March 5 while New Zealand take on Belgium the same day.

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