IPOH: Nic Woods converted two penalty corners to hand defending champions New Zealand a 5-3 victory over Pakistan in the round-robin league of the 25th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament on Saturday.
Twin strikes by Woods in the space of three minutes put New Zealand on winning course after the teams were level 2-2 at half-time.
Back to winning habit after being held to draws by Malaysia and Canada in their initial two outings, New Zealand took their points tally to five, while Pakistan have three points from two matches.
Pakistan had beaten Canada 3-1 in their opening fixture.
Pakistan opened the account in the eighth minute through Mohammad Arslan Qadir, who flicked in Ajaz Ahmed’s cross just wide of goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex.
Pakistan could have increased the lead two minutes later from their first penalty corner when the shot deflected off the goalkeeper’s pads to the goal-post and back into play. The Black Sticks defenders did not have a clue about the ball’s direction until it was cleared in a melee.
New Zealand drew parity in the 12th minute when George Muir’s diagonal cross was deflected into the boards by Stephen Jenness.
Captain Simon Child put the Black Sticks ahead for the first time in the 19th minute when his reverse shot from top of the circle went through Pakistan goalkeeper Imran Butt’s pads.
New Zealand left Pakistan way behind with three goals in a four-minute burst. Two strikes by Woods (39th and 42nd minutes) and one by Kane Russell (43rd) on penalty corners stunned Pakistan.
Pakistan tried to stage a comeback and exerted a lot of pressure on New Zealand, but could only reduce the margin by a goal. Qadir scored his second goal for Pakistan in the 52nd minute before New Zealand closed the gaps in their defence.
Despite the loss, Pakistan coach K. M. Junaid reckoned that it was their best match in the tournament.
“It had every thing and I am glad that we are able to play such a high-level game. We made some early mistakes and our penalty corner defending was not up to expectations. We hope to improve in the next game,” said Junaid.
Earlier, fast-improving Canada posted their first victory in three outings by prevailing 3-1 over Japan.
After a goalless first half, Canada rode on two open field goals in successive minutes to take a 2-0 lead. Mark Pearson (34th minute) and Garbiel Ho-Garcia (35th) penetrated the Japanese circle to shoot on target before Japan pulled one back in the 42nd through captain Hiroki Sakamoto through a penalty corner.
Canada sealed the fate of the contest with a 45th-minute penalty corner strike by captain Scott Tupper.
The victory took Canada’s points tally to four from three outings. They picked up their first point from a 1-1 draw against New Zealand on Thursday.
Japan have suffered defeats in all their three outings.
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