Pakistan overcame a gritty New Zealand in the Sultan of Johor Cup 2023 and were lucky to ‘escape’ with a 3-2 victory after the Kiwis pooled their resources to score two late goals at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium on Saturday.
The Pakistanis had shattered New Zealand’s confidence early in the game with two brilliant penalty corner goals. Drag-flick specialist Arbaz Ahmad sounded the board in the 7th minute and Basharat Ali extended the lead the 30th minute.
It was Arbaz’s third goal in the two-day old tournament.
Muhammad Khan continued Pakistan’s domination by exerting more pain on the Kiwis with a 47th penalty corner conversion to take a 3-0 lead with just 13 minutes from the final whistle.
While the match was evenly balanced in the first quarter, the Pakistanis had the upper hand after that. The Junior Asia Cup 2023 runner-up dominated ball possession although the Kiwis showed glimpses of breaking the defensive wall with quick counter attacks.
They had close to four penalty corners throughout the match but could not get their act right. However, New Zealand surprised their opponents in the last two minutes of play with two quick goals to reduce the deficit as the Pakistanis prevailed 3-2 victors.
Gus Nelson sneaked the ball past goalkeeper Ali Raza in the 58th minute in a goalmouth melee to reduce the score 3-1 and Patrick Ward ruffled the Pakistanis momentum with the second goal from a penalty corner conversion with only 16 seconds remaining on the board.
Pakistan have now pooled four points with this win. They had on Friday played to a 3-3 against India while New Zealand also amassed three points.
The Pakistanis, who have eight players in the side that featured in the Hangzhou Asian Games, will go head on against Malaysian young tigers on Tuesday.