Afraz earns Pakistan last-gasp draw against South Africa

Published July 31, 2022
BIRMINGHAM: Pakistan’s Ahmad Nadeem celebrates after team-mate Afraz scored their late leveller against South Africa during the pool ‘A’ match at the Commonwealth Games on Saturday.—Courtesy CWG2022
BIRMINGHAM: Pakistan’s Ahmad Nadeem celebrates after team-mate Afraz scored their late leveller against South Africa during the pool ‘A’ match at the Commonwealth Games on Saturday.—Courtesy CWG2022

BIRMINGHAM: Afraz scored with 20 seconds left on the clock to help Pakistan secure a 2-2 draw against South Africa in their opening match of the Commonwealth Games hockey tournament on Saturday.

Pakistan twice came from behind in their Pool ‘A’ game and the performance left captain Umar Bhutta feeling optimistic about the team’s chances of finishing in the top two and advancing into the semi-finals.

“We played a very good game today,” Umar told reporters after the match. “We will try our best to win the next match against New Zealand and make it to the semifinals.”

After the match against New Zealand on Sunday, Pakistan face Scotland on Aug 3 before clashing against six-time champions Australia on Aug 4.

“We will try not to repeat the same mistakes in our next matches,” Pakistan’s Dutch coach Siegfried Aikman told reporters.

In an entertaining first quarter, both Pakistan and South Africa started aggressively but it was the South Africans who took the lead in the 14th minute when Connor Beauc­hamp converted a penalty corner.

Pakistan levelled matters on their first penalty corner through Rizwan Ali in the 25th minute and it prompted South Africa to immediately create a circle entry but they lacked the cutting edge to maximise the opportunity.

South Africa grew in confidence and had more shots, circle entries and penalty corners but Pakistan’s defensive unit managed to thwart their moves.

As the third quarter came, the teams got wasteful in possession and Pakistan failed to convert their second penalty corner while also missing a close chance.

They were made to rue those misses when South Africa got a penalty stroke when an absolute rocket of a penalty corner from Guise-Brown struck the face mask of the Pakistan defender Mubashar Ali on the line. Guise-Brown took the stroke to make it 2-1 with six minutes remaining on the clock.

Pakistan needed to respond and they duly did when they got a penalty corner in the dying moments from which Afraz found the back of the net.

In the other Pool ‘A’ match on Saturday, New Zealand and Scotland drew 5-5.

Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2022

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