Pakistan opened their World Hockey League campaign with a fighting 4-4 draw against hosts Malaysia on the opening day of the 8-nation event which serves a qualifier for the 2014 World Cup in the Netherlands.
Malaysia, ranked 13th in the world, produced a stunning first-half performance to pin Pakistan right from the start of the match in Johor Bahru. It was once again a case of Muhammad Imran’s side not being alert to the occasion and the hosts made full use of it, netting three goals within 20 minutes of the game. Muhammad Razie Abdul Rahim fired in two power penalty-corners while Muhammad Marhan Mohd Jalil followed with another much to the delight of the partisan crowd. Pakistan were clearly off the mark and their decision to put Imran Shah in goal instead of the more self-assured Imran Butt clearly backfired. Abdul Haseem Khan provided the Greenshirts with some respite, scoring in the 26th minute to make it 1-3 going into the break.
But Malaysia continued in the same vein when the second-half begun, requiring just three minutes to score their fourth goal through Tengku Tajudin Abdul Jalil’s deflection from close range. Pakistan hit back almost immediately through a low Muhammad Tousiq penalty corner. Star forwad Shakeel Abbasi scored a 56th minute penalty stroke to put serious pressure on the home team and captain Muhammad Imran equalised in the 61st minute to cap a great comeback from Pakistan.
The result, however, could have been a lot better for Pakistan had they held their nerve in front of goal from the several opportunities they created. And while the 5th ranked side would be relieved to take at least the one point from the game, it was a match that Pakistan really should have won.
Pakistan will now take on a formidable England side on June 30 (16:00 PST)