KARACHI: Pakistan got their Azlan Shah Cup campaign and the Olympics preparation off to a flying start as they beat Argentina 4-2 in the tournament’s opening match in what was the Greenshirts’ first international on the blue Astroturf.
The win also handed new captain Sohail Abbas a perfect start to his reign.
The game was heading towards a goal-less first-half before Mohammad Irfan, following a brilliant pass from Shafqat Rasool, found the goal in the 34th minute. The match gained momentum after the interval with Abbas, courtesy a powerful drag-flick, scored in the 50th minute. However, Argentina bounced back and halved the lead through Peillat Gonzalo who struck off a penalty-corner three minutes later. Their continued attacks yielded results when Paredas Matias Enrique found the equaliser via a field effort in the 62nd minute.
But Pakistan, last year’s finalists, held their nerves and scored twice late in the day to seal the result in their favour. Striker Haseem Khan made it 3-2 after he deflected Irfan’s shot in the 65th minute before vice-captain Mohammad Waqas scored a minute before full-time.
Cautious strategy went in our favour: Coach
“The positive thing is that we executed our plan well,” coach Khwaja Junaid told The Express Tribune from Ipoh. “It was in our strategy to start off defensively because we wanted to contain our energy till the end in the hot and humid conditions. Argentina were comparatively more aggressive and their energy level went down in the end.”
The Olympian was extra pleased with the team winning its first game on the blue turf.
“We are still learning about the blue turf and the win will definitely boost our morale because Argentina are considered a very tough side. The players were cautious and left little gaps in their defense and midfield that went in our favour.”
Meanwhile, Junaid also lauded Abbas’ leadership.
“He played with responsibility and his individual performance was also not affected as he managed 50 per cent success rate in penalty-corner conversion.”
Pakistan will now meet New Zealand on Sunday.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2012.
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