PESHAWAR: Down by two goals with just seven minutes to go, Pakistan Under-21 hockey side in a remarkable fight back managed to came out with a 2-2 draw against England juniors despite missing a penalty stroke.
Both the sides had won their opening matches yesterday at Sultan of
Johor Cup in the Malaysian city of Johor Bahru. England, as Great Britain, had won the last year’s title when Pakistan had ended last 6th.
But on Tuesday, Pakistan were the better side and should have got full
three points. The match began at a fast pace with the two circles penetrated in initial minutes. In the 12th minute, Pakistan presented the opponents with the opening goal.
A defender needlessly pushed an English player from behind well outside the circle to concede a penalty corner. Then the Will Calnan’s push straight at goal keeper Ali Raza somehow went through his pads.
Pakistan earnestly looked for the equalizer and created openings and
shots at the goal but it stayed 0-1 when the hooter sounded the end of the first half. Within four minutes of the restart, Pakistan conceded another goal again off a penalty corner.
This time Will Calnan’s initial attempt had been stopped by Ali Raza but
the defence failed to clear the ball. Calnan cleverly took the ball towards top left corner of the circle and found the near post with a superb flat reverse hit. Net minder Ali Raza was replaced by Muneebur Rehman.
England continued to have the better of the exchanges. They wasted
another penalty corner and at least two field chances. Pakistan also had to play with 10 men from 50-60 minutes.
It seemed all over for the green shirts but they showed great resolve
and ran the English defence ragged in the last seven minutes. Samiuallah pounced on the rebound off the first penalty corner to make it 1-2 in the 63rd minute.
A couple of minutes later, a well-coordinated move was stopped when the Pakistani forward was felled at the goal scoring position by the defender. Umpire immediately pointed to the penalty stroke spot.
To the horror of all the Pakistanis watching the match, experienced
Ammad Butt, who was with the national senior team just two days back, flunked. That did not break their hearts as the Pakistanis continued to wreak havoc on the English.
The just reward came with only two minutes left when Abu Bakr’s flick of the second penalty corner beat the opposing goal keeper for sheer pace. Pakistan faces Malaysia on Wednesday.