Pakistan managed a feat it had failed to so far in the Asian Champions Trophy – hold on to a lead – as it got past China 2-1 at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium here.
The young forward line of Abdul Rana, Abdul Hannan and Afraz kept the Chinese defence on its heels with dribbling and pace. Muhammad Ammad and Ahtisham Aslam joined from defence to create overloads on both wings.
But the moves were sparks of brilliance followed by a lack of composure – the combination that has undone Pakistan’s hard work throughout the tournament.
Hannan took several shots at goal, but most were reckless jabs at goal rather than measured takes.
Pakistan set the tone in the first minute when Rana stole the ball off a defender in the China circle.
Two short corners also came Pakistan’s way, but China kept level with Abdul Rehman firing the first one straight at Caiyu Wang, and Muhammad Sufyan Khan getting closed by the first rusher.
Sufyan delivered on the second asking, disturbing the net with a rocket drag flick in the 19th minute. Pakistan almost got its second two minutes later when Zikriya Hayat zoomed through the China half and entered the circle. He set up Rehman one-on-one against Wang, but the latter prevailed.
All China had to show for its attacking ventures in the first half was three circle entries. But the side earned a penalty corner three minutes into the second half when Pakistan had nine outfield players due to a yellow card to Aslam. Jiesheng Gao parked his drag between the keeper and postman Arshad Liaqat to even the contest.
The Green Shirts got their lead back in the 39th minute with a close-knit move in the circle. Captain Umar Bhutta passed to Rana at the left edge whose reverse stick swipe found Afraz unmarked at the far post.
Akmal Hussain played a part in Pakistan keeping the lead with his denials on Weibai Ao and Benhai Chen.
Pakistan held through in the final period, but it was not without a pinch of nerves. First, Gao slapped a pass into the circle from the right that should have been buried into the goal at the far post. Then, one minute from the final hooter, Zixiang Guo was offered space in the circle. His cutback was met with a clean interception, and Pakistan heaved a sigh of relief.
The Hero of the Match this time was Rana Abdul, while the DAFA Young Player was Shahid Abdul from the Pakistan national team.
China will play their next match against Japan to try to get more points in the table, while Pakistan will face the first in the table and home of this tournament, India.