Pakistan bounced back from warm-up defeats to hold Spain to a 1-1 draw and earn a point on the opening day of the men’s field hockey competition that kicked off at the Riverbank Arena in London.
Striker Rehan Butt was the scorer for Pakistan while Pau Quemada struck for the Spaniards immediately after Pakistan’s goal. The Greenshirts, who suffered warm-up defeats to Belgium and the Netherlands, had a slow start with Spain dominating the first five minutes. However, the Sohail Abbas-led team took hold off proceedings to go even in the rest of the session.
They earned the first of two penalty-corners in the 11th minute and Abbas, who returned after a two-minute suspension, failed to beat Spain’s goal-keeper Francisco Cortes who blocked a fast drag-flick with his left glove. Spain also missed their 17th-minute penalty-corner while their goalie made another superb save with the stick on a left-drag flick on Abbas’ second attempt in the 21st-minute short corner.
With the first session ending goal-less, both teams opened their accounts after exchanging attacks. Pakistan got the lead when Butt scored in the 45th minute. However, Spain wasted no time to draw level with Quemada finding the gap in middle of Imran Shah’s feet.
Pakistan coach delighted with draw
Meanwhile, Pakistan coach Khwaja Junaid was delighted with the drawn game.
“It’s a good start,” Junaid told The Express Tribune from London. “The positive thing is that the players looked organised and played as a team. The biggest plus was that our defence was up to the mark. Players were there to cover each other every time. We also created chances but Spain’s goal-keeper was outstanding today.”
Junaid said the team will try to capitalise on a positive start in the upcoming matches.
Team lacking spirit:
Meanwhile, Samiullahsaid the team spirit was missing in the opening game.
“I observed there was a lot of stress on individuals,” said the Olympian. “There were no short passes which have been the strength of our team. Secondly, Pakistan should learn to score on the penalty-corners. We cannot afford to miss too many chances in the future games. But a draw against Spain is a good sign as we are ranked lower than them.”
Captain Dwyer inspires Aussie rampage
Meanwhile, captain Jamie Dwyer scored a hat-trick as world champions Australia launched their Olympics campaign with a thumping 6-0 victory over South Africa. Dwyer’s three strikes helped him equal the Australian record of 179 international goals held by Mark Hager, who is coach of the New Zealand team at these Olympics.
South Korea earlier held off a late New Zealand charge to post a 2-0 win in Pool B.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2012.