KARACHI: The opening match in any competition is difficult for both the teams but Pakistan on the whole played well against Spain on Monday to earn a draw, says Olympian Islahuddin Siddiqui.
Speaking to Dawn soon after the match, which saw Spain holding Pakistan to a 1-1 draw, the country’s most successful captain and coach said that he could see that the Green Shirts hadn’t settled in the initial five to 10 minutes of the match as Spain kept the pressure on them.
“Spain were playing fast initially which took Pakistan off guard. And that is why we kept fumbling. But the good thing is that we were able to see off our rough patch without any loss or damage and were even able to come back into the game from that point,” observed Islah.
“We were able to get two penalty-corners and made two field attempts, too. Unfortunately, Sohail Abbas couldn’t convert the penalty-corners when he threw the ball upwards on both attempts, which the tall Spanish goalkeeper had no problem blocking. Had he sent one lower and one upwards, it could have worked. Then it would also have been better to aim at the corners of the goalpost rather than its middle both the times.”
“Also I noticed that even though he had the speed there was no accuracy in Sohail’s shots. That’s why I believe that he should work more on his accuracy and concentrate on angular shots,” Islah pointed out.
About the game’s second half, the former captain said that it was okay although Pakistan’s forward line missed two or three good chances. “Waqas Sharif missed one and Haseem Khan another,” he said.
“Now, you only get as many good chances in big matches and you can’t get very far if you don’t utilise them. For the next matches,” Islah stressed, “the team coaches should be able to control the misses. If Sohail is unable to convert the penalty-corners, they should let Mohammad Imran take them.”
Islah went on to add: “Luckily for Pakistan, Spain, too, missed three to four scoring chances which also included three penalty-corners. But then they equalised seconds after Pakistan scored through Rehan Butt. We should not have let our defence relax due to which Spain’s counter attack met with hundred per cent success. The next instant saw them attacking again, which resulted in their getting a penalty-corner. We are lucky to have survived that.”
For next time, Islah advised that Pakistan should take care not to give big gaps for the opponents to get in and score.
“Thankfully we are still very much in the race and will remain so if we keep on performing well, which will only happen if we control our missing, avail our chances and not let our defense relax,” he concluded.
Pakistan play their next match against Argentina on Wednesday.