KARACHI: Pakistan were knocked out of contention for the final of Azlan Shah Cup after a 3-2 loss against hosts Malaysia on Wednesday.
Playing their fourth match of the tournament, Pakistan were let down by their defence once again and let the hosts back into the match despite leading by 2-0 until the last minute of the first half.
Umar Bhutta gave Pakistan the lead in the fourth minute of the match and until then, the hosts had been unable to convert from the several chances they had created.
Shafqat Rasool scored a brilliant second goal for the Asian Champions in the 12th minute to consolidate Pakistan’s lead, which could have further improved had they not failed to score from the two penalty corners they won in the first half.
Malaysia made their way back into the match in the last minute of the first half with a goal from Amir Farid. With second half underway, Pakistan had to counter several Malaysian attacks and were found wanting in defence as Faisal Saari brought his team level in the 13th minute of the second half (48th minute).
It was then back and forth on the blue turf of the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh, as both teams battled to stay in contention for the final. Pakistan were denied a double chance and missed another penalty corner.
With 90 seconds left to the full-time whistle, Malaysia were awarded a penalty corner, which they duly converted through Mohammed Razie and bagged all three points from the match.
The hosts now have five points from their four matches, while Pakistan have three, from their solitary win in the opening match against Argentina.
Meanwhile, India, too, are virtually out of contention for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup after they were defeated 3-2 by Argentina.
It was their third defeat in the tournament, an important warm-up ahead of the London Olympics.
Britain kept their hopes of making Sunday’s final alive as they inflicted a 2-1 defeat on table-toppers New Zealand.
India now have six points from five matches, and their stand-in manager Mohamad Riaz said they were wasteful in front of goal.
They face rivals Pakistan on Thursday in Ipoh, and while pride is at stake, their hopes of lifting the trophy look over.
“Playing Pakistan has never been easy... Making the final looks like an outside chance, but defeating Pakistan is always important for Indian hockey,” Riaz said.
In the first half, both teams played listlessly in the blazing afternoon heat until Argentina took the lead in the 37th minute through Matias Paredes, and then Santiago Montelli.
A shell-shocked India redoubled their efforts and were rewarded when Sardar Singh scored with a delightful reverse hit on 49 minutes.
But then Argentina punished the sloppy Indian defence again when Gonzalo Peillat converted a penalty corner. India reduced the deficit via a penalty corner but it was too late.
New Zealand were missing two of their key players, midfielders Simon Child and Ryan Archibald, as they went down to a determined Britain.
“In hindsight, we picked up some pointers that will help us in our quest for Olympic glory this July,” New Zealand coach Shane McLeod said, putting a brave face on defeat.
Britain opened the scoring through Ashley Jackson and doubled their advantage through Matt Daly.
New Zealand had two penalty corners in the first half but failed twice as Andy Hayward was off form. Hayward finally found the target in the 62nd minute.
In the final match of the day, hosts Malaysia earned their first win of the tournament when they came back from a two-goal deficit to beat Pakistan 3-2.
Pakistan play India tomorrow, before playing their last match against Great Britain on Saturday.
The top two teams from amongst the seven will qualify for Sunday’s final.