KARACHI: As Pakistan defeated Japan 4-1 in their final group match of the 25th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup yesterday to avoid finishing dead last, India crushed hosts Malaysia 6-1 and secured their place in the tournament final.
The consolation win means that Pakistan will now play a playoff with Canada for the fifth place today, while India will later face world champions Australia, thanks to amassing 12 points — one more than New Zealand’s 11.
“We are happy to have picked up our second win and qualify for the playoff,” said Pakistan’s head coach Mohammad Khawaja Junaid. “Although we defeated Canada early in the tournament, it will be a tougher match this time as both the teams have since gained a lot of experience on this turf.”
Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: India thrashes Pakistan 5-1
He then admitted that the team fell short of achieving their target of a top-four finish, but remained hopeful of better days ahead. “We tried our best but made mistakes. This tournament will help us gain the experience this side needs,” said Junaid. “Our young players got some great exposure and have strengthened their playing structure.”
Pakistan dominated possession in the first quarter but did not find the opening goal until the 20th minute when Ali Shan slotted the ball past Japanese goalkeeper Takashi Yoshikawa.
Within four minutes, Pakistan doubled their lead when Rizwan Ali tapped the ball into an open goal after a miss-hit by Tasawar Abbas.
Japan, who had not beaten Pakistan in any of their previous meetings and lost 7-0 in their previous match at the Asia Cup in 2013, played with more cohesion towards the end of the third quarter and were able to score in the final quarter with a direct hit by Shota Yamada in 48th minute.
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They were still celebrating when man-of-the-match Arslan Qadir restored Pakistan’s two-goal advantage in the same minute. Qadir, who tops tournament’s goal-scoring chart with six strikes, scored his second nine minutes later to complete the rout.
“I am happy to top the charts and will try to score more as Malaysia’s skipper Razie Rahim is just a goal behind,” Arslan told The Express Tribune.
Elsewhere, Australia defeated Canada 3-0 as skipper Mark Knowles, Blake Govers and Flynn Ogilvie all scored a goal apiece.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2016.
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