PAKISTAN kept their semi-final aspirations alive after a late surge saw them overcome South Africa 5-4 in a thriller at the Riverbank Arena on Sunday.
Captain Sohail Abbas and Waseem Ahmed scored in the last six minutes to cap a wonderful recovery as Pakistan neutralised South Africa’s lead in the must-win Group ‘A’ clash.
The result meant that Pakistan went third in the group behind leaders Australia and Great Britain with seven points from four matches. Australia and Britain drew 3-3 in their game and have eight points. That result left Pakistan needing a victory against the Australians to progress to the semis.
“It was the best match of the tournament as both teams played an attacking game,” Pakistan’s head coach Akhtar Rasool said.
“I’m happy that our forwards clicked and if they continue in the same vein against Australia, I hope for a good result. I believe everyone who watched this game enjoyed it and it is a good sign for the promotion of hockey.”
Under a heavy shower that lashed the Riverbank Arena, South Africa took the lead in the second minute when Thornton McDade scored off a pass by Wade Paton with a fine push to the left of Imran who was well-beaten.
Pakistan got their foot in the game in the 19th after Rizwan Senior missed the target with only South African goalkeeper Erasmus Pietersen to beat.
And they equalised in the very next minute when a shot by Shafqat Rasool was deflected into the path of Abdul Haseem Khan who slotted the ball with an exquisite shot.
In the 22nd minute, South Africa went ahead after Justin Reid-Ross converted a penalty corner.
The goal sprung Pakistan into action as they scored first through Shafqat who turned in a pass by Haseem a minute later before Haseem notched his second of the game when he scored after a shot by Shakeel Abbasi had been deflected by Pietersen.
South Africa, though, were not ready to bow down and Reid-Ross converted a penalty corner in the 35th minute to send both teams level at the break. Three minutes into the second-half, the rejuvenated South Africans took the lead through Paton’s field goal after a shot by Thornton had been saved by Imran.
But Sohail and Waseem had other ideas.
Sohail scored in the 64th minute, scoring off a penalty corner, to haul Pakistan level before Waseem fired in another on the 67th minute to give Pakistan all three points and a much-needed boost ahead of their clash with world champions Australia on Tuesday.
In Group ‘B’, the Netherlands kept their perfect record intact when they beat defending champions Germany 3-1 to progress to the semi-finals, South Korea defeated India 4-1 with three late goals, while Belgium and New Zealand drew 1-1.