JAKARTA: Pakistan hockey squad maintained their winning spree in the 2018 Asian Games when they defeated Malaysia 4-1 – their fourth straight victory of the tournament — at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium here on Sunday to storm into semi-finals. Malaysia will face India in the semi-finals after Stephen Van Huizen’s side were hammered by Pakistan in the Group B match. World No 13 Pakistan will wrap up their group campaign against Bangladesh while 12th-ranked Malaysia will take on Oman, both on Tuesday. The semi-finals are scheduled to take place on August 30, with the final will be played on September 1.Having thrashed Thailand, Oman and Kazakhstan by a collective scoreline of 36-0 in their first three matches, Pakistan entered the game on an almost unprecedented high. However, the team also knew that in Malaysia they would face a much tougher side than the previous three that had allowed them to score at will. It was an insipid performance by the Malaysians as Pakistan seized the initiative and made count the chances they created. The opening goal of the game came in the sixth minute when Muhammad Irfan converted a penalty corner to put his side 1-0 up. However, the lead only lasted five minutes as Malaysia drew level through Faiz Helmi Jali. With Malaysia down to 10 players following Faiz’s yellow card, Pakistan took advantage of the numerical advantage. With both the teams neck and neck and unwilling to given any edge to the opposition, Pakistan’s Ajaz Ahmad finally succeeded to get the crucial go-ahead strike. That goal sapped the energy out of the Malaysian backline as Pakistan struck again four minutes later, with Mubashar Ali finding the net this time.At the end of the third period, Pakistan were 3-1 up and, not for the first time in the tournament, in the driving position. Two minutes from the full-time whistle, Ajaz scored the game’s final goal to give Pakistan a relatively hard-fought, yet still quite comfortable victory. With another three points earned, Pakistan now have a total of 12 to their name – good enough to go on top of the Pool B points table. So far, the Pakistan athletes in Indonesia have managed to win two bronze medals. The hockey team represent the national contingent’s best hope for a gold medal. 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. Pakistan’s medal tally in 15 hockey tournaments of the Asian Games is eight gold, three silver and three bronze medals- hockey was not included in the first two Asiads, in 1951 and 1954. From 1958 to 1990, Pakistan claimed seven gold and two silver medals in nine consecutive Asian Games, a remarkable sequence. This included four consecutive golds from 1970 to 1982. But in the next four Asian Games, Pakistan failed to reach even the final. In 1994, 1998 and 2006, Pakistan were third. In 2002 Pakistan failed to climb on to the podium, losing to Malaysia in the bronze medal play-off. In 2010, the Green Shirts regained the gold after 20 years. The first place also gave them an automatic qualification for the 2012 Olympics. At the last Asian Games, in 2014, Pakistan again managed to reach the final where they met India. Pakistan had defeated India in the pool match. The final was an exciting game between the two traditional rivals. It was 1-1 after the regular time. However, Pakistan went down in the shootout. Thus, they lost the chance to get an automatic qualification for the Olympics.Published in Daily Times, August 27th 2018.