DHAKA: Pakistan got off to the perfect start but couldn’t get the ideal finish.
In an end-to-end semi-final of the Asian Champions Trophy, Pakistan ended up on the losing side of an 11-goal thriller against South Korea at the Maulana Bhasani Hockey Stadium here on Tuesday.
South Korea’s 6-5 win set up a title clash for them against Japan, who later overpowered India 5-3, on Wednesday. Pakistan, who took a 1-0 lead in the third minute against the South Koreans, will play arch-rivals India in the third-place playoff before the final.
Pakistan and India were the joint-holders of the Asian title and Pakistan’s defeat marks the first time since the inception of the tournament that they have failed to qualify for the final.
“It is disappointing for us because we scored more field goals,” said Pakistan captain Umar Bhutta after the match, referring to his side’s four field goals while the South Koreans only got one from open play. “We played a good match but the two goals we conceded from penalty corners hurt us.”
A penetrating run from Umar gave Pakistan the early lead when he entered the circle before unleashing a fierce shot into the far corner that gave South Korea goalkeeper Kim Jaehyeon no chance.
Pakistan’s defence, however, undid the good work as South Korea took a 2-1 lead in the 12th minute after getting two penalty corners within the space of a minute. Jang Jonghyun, who got four goals, made no mistake from seven yards on both occasions.
Junaid Manzoor got Pakistan back on level terms when he turned in from close range in the 22nd minute but Jang restored South Korea’s advantage when he converted a penalty corner three minutes later.
Afraz hauled Pakistan level again five minutes later with another field goal but it was South Korea who went into half-time with a 4-3 lead after Yang Jihun converted yet another penalty corner moments later.
South Korea had a two goal advantage when they scored their only field goal through Jeong Junwoo in the 44th.
Mubashar Ali restored parity when he converted back-to-back penalty corners in the 47th and 51st only for Jang to break Pakistan hearts with the drag-flick winner four minutes from time.
Olympic bronze medallists India were overwhelming favourites before their semi-final against Japan after having thrashed the same opponents 6-0 in their last round robin match, but the Japanese had other plans.
The Japanese looked a completely different side as they toyed with the defence of the Manpreet Singh-led side from the beginning.
Shota Yamada’s first-minute penalty was quickly added to by Raiki Fujishima in the second minute and Yoshiki Kirishita made it 3-0 for Japan, the 2018 Asian Games gold-medallists, in the 14th.
Dilpreet Singh diverted the ball home to get one back from India in the 17th minute but Japan ended the contest with goals by Kosei Kawabe in the 35th and Ryoma Ooka three minutes later with both goals coming off swift counter-attacks.
Harmanpreet Singh (43rd) and Hardik Singh (58th) got India close but it was not enough.
It was only Japan’s second win against India in 19 matches.
Published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2021