Lahore : In their fourth match of the round robin, Pakistan were fully stretched by the pointless Japanese team in their 4-3 win. With two wins and as many defeats, and one match remaining, vs China, Pakistan have one foot in the semifinals of the Asian Champions Trophy in Kuantan, Malaysia.
Against India, both the Pakistan’s goals were well earned but two of the three conceded were soft. Today, again Pakistan made fatal defensive errors which should have been avoided.
Japanese never went ahead. It was Pakistan who became complacent after getting lead on more than one occasion.
They first went ahead in the 5th minute after a video referral confirmed that Irfan Junior’s stick did touch the ball within the circle.
Japan struck back within four minutes. Hatano was surprisingly given a lot of space along the right side. He made a good run and sent a wonderful minus which was sent to the net by a superb Seren Tanaka tomahawk from the top of the circle.
Just two minutes had passed when Ali Shan entered the circle with deft stick work and forced a foot foul to get a penalty corner. The goal keeper was helpless against Aleem Bilal’s thunderous high flick on right side of the goal.
Pakistan looked to strengthen the lead in the first five minutes of the second quarter but suddenly Japan came close to scoring; deflection to a hit missed the target. Very next minute, Pakistan missed out in almost the same manner. After a midfield play over next few minutes, a Japanese cross from the left couldnt find a touch in front of the Pakistani goal. However, they were able to draw level at 2-2 in the last minute of the first half.
Aleem Bilal failed to make a routine stop and Kenta Tanaka just inside the circle, hit the net with a reverse shot.
Green shirts began aggressively on restart. The efforts bore fruit in the 36th minute.Rizwan Sr with his back towards the goal sounded the board with reverse shot from a narrow angle.
Pakistan were well in control when the game had to be stopped twice because of the heavy rain.
Their opening match against Malaysia was also halted due to rain and also in the third quarter. That day too, Pakistan were leading but lost the rhythm on resumption and were defeated 2-4. Not today, the green shirts kept their compsure and repeatedly raided the Japanese goal but poor finishing let them down. Eventually, it was 4-2. Off the second PC, Aleem Bilal again netted with a right high flick, almost a replica of his first goal.
With nine minutes left, it seemed Pakistan would easily go home with three points. But the Japanse earned their only PC because of an Ammad Butt silly tackle out side the circle. The PC strike hit a defender on the goal line and the resultant penalty stroke was duly converted by Zendana. With six minutes left, the Japanese went all out to gain their first point of the tournament. Three good opportunities were created but the equaliser eluded them. Net minder Imran Butt and defenders kept Pakistan’s lead intact till the end of the 60 minutes.
Pakistan: Aleem Bilal 2 PCs (12′ , 52′) Irfan Jr (5′) Rizwan Sr (36′)
Japan: S.Tanaka (10′), K.Tanaka (30′), Zendana PS (54′)
Next Pakistan plays China on Thursday