JAKARTA: Pakistan were off to a flying start at the Asian Games Hockey Tournament when they routed hapless Thailand 10-0 at Gelora Bung Karno (GBK) Sports Complex here on Monday. In other matches of the day, Bangladesh edged out Oman 2-1 in a closely contested Group B match, Japan crushed Sri Lanka 11-0 in Group A, South Korea outclassed Hong Kong 11-0 in Group A, Malaysia downed Kazakhstan 16-2 in Group B while India defeated hosts Indonesia 17-0 in Group A.
It turned out to be a routine win for the Green Shirts as they look towards rediscovering their form in the bid to win the gold medal. This the third tournament that Pakistan are playing under Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans. The first was the Commonwealth Games in Australia and the second was the FIH Champions Trophy in the Netherlands. The silver medallists of the last edition of the Incheon Asian Games did not give any chance to the opposition as they struck 21 shots at the goal — 12 through field moves and nine through penalty corners — and converted 10 chances. Meanwhile, Thailand had only one shot at the goal which was saved by goalkeeper Muhammad Imran.
Atiq Arshad shone with a hat-trick, while Tauseeq Arshad, and Mohammad Irfan and Abu Bakr all scored twice. Mubashar Ali was the other scorer. In his post match comments, Pakistan skipper Mohammad Rizwan Senior said that it was a good workout for the team as they managed to get both field and penalty corner goals. “It was not a tough match, but our focus was on keeping the structure and keeping the mistakes down”. “We treat every match seriously and hope that the teams will give a good fight. But not good enough for the win,” he said in jest. Rizwan said that the team had improved under the Dutch coach and hope to see better results in Jakarta. “We will be better, and I hope we can go all the way to the final. That’s the target but we need to make the semis first. After that we will have to see how it goes,” he added. After struggling for much of the first quarter Pakistan finally broke the duck with a penalty corner goal scored by Tauseeq in the 13th minute. Irfan put them further ahead with a penalty corner goal in the 20th minute and Atif was on target with a field goal one minute later. Pakistan ended the first half with another penalty corner goal in the 30th minute through Irfan for a 4-0 lead. After the breather, Pakistan took just one minute to start scoring again. This time Mubashaar was on target in the 31st minute from the penalty corner attempt. Atif, playing only in his second tournament for Pakistan, scored his second goal in the 38th minute and followed it up with his hat-trick in the 46th minute. His earlier tournament was the Asia Cup in Dhaka last year.
Abu Bakar scored a brace in the 41st and 47th minutes while Tauseeq ended the game with his second goal in the 48th minute. Pakistan’s next match on Wednesday is against Oman who are coached by former Pakistan international Tahir Zaman. Hockey at the Asian Games is always a highlight and this year sees one of the biggest fields of competitors with 12 men’s teams and 10 women’s teams all searching for that most sought after of prizes — to be the first nation to qualify for a place at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Published in Daily Times, August 21st 2018.