IPOH: Players of Pakistan and South Korea in action during their Azlan Shah Cup match on Sunday.—courtesy Malaysia Hockey Confederation
IPOH: Players of Pakistan and South Korea in action during their Azlan Shah Cup match on Sunday.—courtesy Malaysia Hockey Confederation

IPOH: Pakistan extended their impressive start at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, winning their second successive game by overwhelming South Korea in a dominant 4-0 victory on Sunday.

A day after overcoming Malaysia 5-4 in the opener, Pakistan had four different scorers against Korea including last game’s hat-trick hero Sufyan Khan.

Abdul Hanan Shahid opened the scoring with a solo effort in the third minute, going past six opposition players in a dazzling run before flicking the ball to the right of goalkeeper Kim Jaehyeon.

“The goal that I scored was a team effort,” Hannan said afterwards. “I would not have scored if not for the collective support from my teammates. Our mission here is to play good hockey and our game has improved after the match against Malaysia.”

Pakistan went on to score twice in the space of seven minutes in the second quarter. Arshad Liaqat doubled the lead for Roelant Oltmans’ men in the 20th minute with Ghazanfar Ali adding a third with another field goal.

The Koreans tried to get back in the second half but Sufyan’s drag-flick conversion 10 minutes from time killed off the contest.

The victory put Pakistan on top of the table with six points, ahead of goal difference from Japan, who downed New Zealand 4-1 in the other match on Sunday with the top two facing each other on Tuesday.

Japan, who beat the Koreans 2-1 in their opener on Saturday, scored through Naru Kimura (13th minute), Raiki Fujishima (23rd), Tsubasa Tanaka (43rd) and Ken Nagayoshi (60th). Scott Cosslett replied for New Zealand, coming off a 7-1 thrashing of Canada, via a penalty corner in the 55th minute.

Pakistan had a bruising encounter against Malaysia on Saturday, with Oltmans saying afterwards that his players were willing to put their bodies on the line in pursuit of glory; the fact exemplified by forward Salman Razzaq appearing against the Koreans despite having been struck on the knee in the previous game.

“Salman is a great player who is always eager to fight for his country under any circumstances, and players like him make our team better,” Oltmans told reporters after the match.

“He wanted to play, but I wanted to make sure that he was okay, so we did an X-ray to see how bad his injury was. Thank God he was fine, and that’s what made us play him in today’s match.

“He was exceptional in today’s game, doing all the dirty work for us and even receiving a green card for the team. His presence on the team motivated everyone to perform well, which makes me admire this group, as every one of them is committed to fighting for the team.

“There is no doubt we played a much better game today than against Malaysia yesterday. Today the team was in better control of the match. We have also worked on improving on the mistakes made against Malaysia earlier and you can see the team was in a much better position and commanding also.

“We also did some analysis before the match against Korea and there was a team effort too in our planning. I’m pleased with how the team has gelled together with just three days of training for this tournament.”

South Korea’s head coach Min Tae-seok rued that his side was unable to fight back after conceding early on.

“They were faster than us, and we could not cope with their speed on several occasions during the game. On top of that, we got demotivated after conceding, and we failed to fight back,” he told reporters.

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2024

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