Kuantan (25 Oct, 2016): Defending champions Pakistan faced the brunt from a rejuvenated Samurai Japan before prevailing 4-3 in this twice rain-interrupted QNET 4th Asian Champions Trophy match at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium in Kuantan today.
In a match that the Pakistanis need to win at all cost and move forward for a spot in the semi-finals, the two-time champions found themselves holed up in a dicey situation which could have gone either way in the end.
Twice they led but a porous defence allowed the Japanese to claw back 2-2 just seconds before the end of the second quarter and only the Pakistanis only came alive in the third quarter.
India, the 2011 champions, is back sailing on clear and calm waters and cruised into the semi-finals following a 9-0 drubbing of China today – their second highest score in the tournament after charting Japan’s downfall 10-2 in the opening tie.
The goal scorers for India are Yousuf Affan (19th and 40th), Akashdeep Singh (9th and 39th), Devinder Walmmiki (22nd), Rupinder Pal Singh (25th), C. Thimmaiah (34th) and Lalit Upadhaya (37th).
The Indians are now top of the table standings with 10 points from four games and with this massive win over World No.18 China they are guaranteed a place in the semi-finals while Malaysia is second on nine points, Pakistan moved to third (6) followed by Korea (4), Japan (3) and Japan at the bottom (0).
Muhammad Irfan Jr gave Pakistan a fifth minute lead by clipping onto a fully blasted shot from a teammate outside the left semi-circle that graced past goalkeeper Masahito Kunitomo and into goal.
The Japanese, who lost three matches – losing 2-10 against India, suffered a narrow 1-2 defeat against China before going down 2-7 against the Malaysians, exhibited a thrilling comeback to level 1-1 through Seren Tanaka’s field goal in the 10th minute.
But a dominant Pakistan was back in control two minutes later to go 2-1 up via a Muhammad Aleem Bilal penalty corner but was soon deadlocked at 2-2 as Kenta Tanaka fired from a field goal.
The second half was twice held up by heavy rain causing an almost 30 minutes of stoppage in play. Upon resumption Pakistan went 4-2 ahead through Muhammad Rizwan Sr field goal (36th) and Aleem Bilal’s penalty corner (52nd) before Japan narrowed the gap 4-3.
The Pakistanis came under intense pressure from the Japanese in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter and were lucky to escape with this win that has given them brighter hope of advancing to the semi-finals. They need to beat China in the last match on Thursday.
Result: Pakistan 4 Japan 3; India 9 China 0
Wednesday (26 Oct, 2016): Korea v Japan (6.30pm); Malaysia v India (8.30pm).