Pakistan and Malaysia play out hard-fought draw to stay afloat
Saumojyoti S Choudhury
Bhubaneswar, Dec 5 (PTI) Four-time champions Pakistan played out a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Malaysia in a Pool D match as both the teams remained in the hunt for a knock-out round berth in the men's hockey World Cup here on Wednesday.
After failing to break the deadlock for a long time, Pakistan drew the first blood in the 51st minute through Muhammad Atiq's field strike before Malaysia restored parity four minutes later when Faizal Saari converted a penalty corner to stay afloat in the competition.
The draw meant both Pakistan and Malaysia remained in the fray for the knock-out rounds, having garnered a point each from two outings.
Germany are leading the pool with six points ahead of Netherlands and Pakistan. Malaysia are placed last because of an inferior goal difference.
Pakistan had earlier lost by a solitary goal to Germany, while Malaysia were thrashed 0-7 by the Netherlands.
Pakistan will round off their pool engagements against Netherlands on December 9 while Malaysia, with a goal difference of minus 7, have an uphill task against the Germans the same day.
In the encounter between world number 12 Malaysia and number 13 Pakistan, there were hardly anything to separate the two sides.
Malaysia started brightly earning two penalty corners in the third minute. While the first attempt was blocked by the Pakistani runner, the next try was kept at bay by keeper Imran Butt.
Next, it was Pakistan's turn to earn a penalty corner but Aleem Bilal's drag-flick directed at the top right corner was blocked by Malaysia goalkeeper Kumar Subramaniam.
Malaysia came close to scoring in the ninth minute but Butt came up with yet another great save to stop Razi Rahim's drag-flick directed at the bottom centre.
It was an end-to-end battle as experienced Subramiam made another smart save to keep away a reverse flick from a midfield pass of Tasawar Abbas.
Pakistan attacked mostly through the centre with 80 per cent of their circle entries coming from that area, while Malaysia tried to find spaces on the right side.
Faizal Saari earned Malaysia their fourth penalty corner in the 23rd minute but Butt once again made a good save to deny Saari.
Both the teams made forays with pace and trickery on either ends but they lacked the final pass inside the box.
Two minutes from half-time, Umar Bhutta earned Pakistan their second short corner but Bilal's drag-flick hit the runner's foot resulting in another set piece, which they wasted while going for a variation. Both the teams failed to break the deadlock in the first two quarters.
Ten minutes into the third quarter, Malaysia won their fourth penalty corner but to no avail.
Pakistan finally tasted success in the 51st minute, courtesy skipper Muhammad Rizwan's inch perfect pass to Atiq inside the box. The striker first received the pass, created space on the right, took a 360 degree spin to shoot the ball past Subramaniam.
Malaysia desperately needed a goal to stay afloat in the tournament and five minutes from the final hooter their efforts succeeded when they earned their fifth penalty corner and Saari was up to the task, flicking the ball high to the top right corner of Pakistan goal to share the spoils