From our correspondent
BIRMINGHAM: Pakistan on Saturday conquered Canada 4-3 thanks to Abdul Shahid’s last-minute strike to finish at the seventh position in the men’s hockey event of the Commonwealth Games here at the University of Birmingham Squash and Hockey Centre.
Shahid managed the winner in the last few seconds with a super reverse flick which ran a ray of excitement in the Pakistan’s camp.
Striker Abdul Rana and midfielders Ghazanfar Ali and Umar Bhutta also hit one goal apiece in Pakistan’s morale-boosting win to finish the event on a positive note.
For Canada Mathew Sarmento struck twice while skipper Keegan Pereira hit one. In a hotly-contested 7th to 8th place show Pakistan had an upper hand in the first quarter. The Green-shirts managed a penalty corner in the first minute but Mubashar Ali’s shot went off after deflecting from Canada’s goalie Mc Tavish’s stick.
In the sixth minute, Pakistan could have struck but Mubashar again fumbled in the area. In the 9th minute striker Abdul Shahid sneaked through Canada’s defence but his drive was excellently intercepted by the Canada’s defender.
In the minute, Canada made a fine effort but goalkeeper Akmal Hussain managed a brilliant save. In the final minute Umar Bhutta found Abdul Rana in a perfect position but his push was cleared by Mc Tavish. Three minutes into the second quarter Tavish saved Canada from a real blow when he made a diving save on Afraz’s drive. And finally, Pakistan opened the scoring when Abdul Rana struck on rebound in the 24th minute. In the 25th minute, Ghazanfar Ali doubled Pakistan’s lead when he hammered in a setter from the top of the area. In the 26th minute, Canada reduced the deficit on a penalty corner through Mathew Sarmento. Four minutes latter, Keegan Pereira levelled the score for his team on penalty stroke which had been confirmed through video referral after initially a penalty corner had been awarded.
It was 2-2 at the end of the second quarter. After a goalless third quarter which did not see any solid chance created by either side skipper Umar Bhutta put Pakistan 3-2 ahead in the 52nd minute. However, six minutes latter Mathew Sarmento struck on short corner to level the score 3-3. However, it was striker Abdul Shahid who managed an excellent decisive goal in the last few seconds to secure a sensational win for the team.
“I think we created a lot but operated very nervously upfront because we wanted a good result and we wanted to play good hockey,” Pakistan coach Siegfried Aikman told this correspodnent.
“In the beginning our finishing was not okay. It was a tense game, going ups and down. We took a 2-0 lead. They scored a lucky goal and it was 2-1 and they hit another and the team again got nervous. In the last quarter we tried to play more relaxed. And opportunities came in the last stage and then we panicked. Even our seniors lost their balance. We played these matches to learn. The result will improve our rankings,” Aikman said.
“Before the event I was hoping to sneak into the semi-finals but I knew that it was quite difficult. We were not well-prepared for this tournament. But we have a good team and on a good day we can surprise the whole world,” Aikman said.
Meanwhile Pakistan’s skipper Umar Bhutta was happy with the outcome.
“We played very well, created more chances but unfortunately our finishing was not that good. I think the team scored four field goals and played an upper hand. Beating a better-ranked side is a great gesture that we are improving gradually,” Umar said.
Earlier, Scotland beat Ghana 7-2 to claim ninth position. Pakistan will return on August 9.