LAHORE, Aug 26: Former Olympians Manzoor-ul-Hasan Senior and Khawaja Junaid have hailed Pakistan’s victory against Malaysia in a crucial match at the Asia Cup hockey tournament in Ipoh, Malaysia on Sunday.
Talking to Dawn, Manzoor said though Pakistan’s performance in the first half was dull, in the second half, Pakistan played like champions to earn an easy 4-1 victory in their important pool ‘A’ game against the hosts as Mohammad Imran-led green-shirts qualified for the semi-finals.
The overwhelming win has also increased the chances of Pakistan finishing pool ‘A’ as toppers.
It is significant to mention that Pakistan face a must-win situation in the Asia Cup in order to qualify for next year’s World Cup.
“It is a creditable win for Pakistan as Malaysia lost a match by such a big margin after many years and that too before a lively home crowd,” Manzoor said.
“[After this win] Pakistan team’s morale must be high. This victory will also force India and South Korea — two major competitors in the Asia Cup — to remain on guard against Pakistan. They are now expected to make changes in their original game plan [in case they face Pakistan in semi-final/final],” Manzoor added.
Asked to comment on Pakistan’s game plan in the Malaysia game, Manzoor said it always depends on the match situation.
“I think after playing a dull first half, the Pakistan team management changed the game plan and introduced a strategy which Pakistan employed during the 1980s through the troika of Kaleemullah, Rashid-ul-Hasan and Manzoor Junior,” he said.
“Like cricket off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, who earned a big name for himself by introducing ‘teesra’ [a mystery ball] in the game, Kaleemullah, Rashid and Manzoor Junior had formed a successful strategy back in 1980s to attack from the right flank and combining impressively scored goals from the left flank.
“And exactly the same happened in the second half [of the Pakistan-Malaysia game],” he noted. “I will advise the team management to continue with it.”
Commenting on the performance of goalkeeper Salman Akbar, recalled after three years, Manzoor said the Salman’s skills were yet to be tested in tough matches against India and South Korea.
“Salman’s real test will come in big games against the strong teams [in the Asia Cup] having added ability to launch attacks,” he observed.
Meanwhile, Khawaja Junaid said Pakistan played well against Malaysia, reckoning that the defenders and forwards both did fairly well.
“Though the victory margin [against Malaysia] was impressive, still I urge the team management to keep the same tempo in the remaining matches and there is no need to get complacent,” Junaid added.
Junaid said Pakistan also demonstrated good stamina as their attacks penetrating the Malaysian defence during the second half were very effective. “The same skills must be shown by Pakistan against South Korea and India to for achieve the ultimate target,” Junaid added.
Junaid also cautioned Pakistan to play with their full potential against minnows Chinese Taipei in their last pool match to be held on Tuesday.