Gallant Pakistan fall 1-0 to Aussies in Champions Trophy
MELBOURNE, Dec 4: Pakistan showed a statement of attacking intent but fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat to Australia in their final Pool ‘B’ match at the Champions Trophy here on Tuesday.
The result meant Olympic silver medallists the Netherlands topped the pool, ahead of defending champions Australia, after edging bottom placed Belgium 5-4 despite having lead 3-0 at half-time.
India finished top of Pool ‘A’ despite going down 3-2 in their final pool game to Olympic champions Germany while England and New Zealand drew 1-1, finishing third and fourth respectively in the pool.
The final standings after the pool round-robin mean the Netherlands will face New Zealand and Australia will play England in Thursday’s quarter-finals. India will play Belgium and Germany will meet Pakistan in the other quarter-finals.
Australia, chasing a fifth straight Champions Trophy, needed to win by two goals or more against Pakistan to take top spot in Pool ‘B’ away from the Dutch, however they were taken by surprise by a Pakistan side which showed excellent defensive discipline while also creating better chances.
Pakistan looked capable of pulling off an upset and hit the post early in the second-half before a costly brain snap from Shafqat Rasool changed the course of the match.
His terrible tackle in an area he didn’t need to challenge resulted in a yellow card, and Australia’s first penalty corner of the match 20 minutes from time and Kieran Govers took full advantage to give Kookaburras the win.
Govers’ goal was Australia’s first in more than 115 minutes of tournament play after they had been held to a 0-0 draw in their previous match against the Netherlands.
Australian defender Mark Knowles said there was still room for improvement.
“We haven’t played that well yet and know we can get better. We need to improve, we now play England, they are young and it’s a quarter-final at a Champions Trophy so it will be big for everyone,” he said.
Goals from Jeroen Hertzberger, Quirjin Caspers and Tim Jenniskens had given the Netherlands a 3-0 half-time lead but Belgium came back, thanks to a Tom Boon double-strike.
Robbert Kemperman extended the Dutch lead to 4-2, but Belgian Alexander Hendrickx struck back a minute later to bring the Belgians within one goal again.
But Valentin Verga’s penalty stroke goal in the 69th minute secured victory for the Netherlands. In the final minute, Xavier Reckinger scored from a penalty corner for Belgium.
“We lost control of the match,” Verga said. “I think it is a lesson for us that we need to play the whole match and not only the first half.”
Patrick Schmidt and Tobias Matania scored in a five-minute passage in the second-half as Germany rallied from 2-1 down to beat India while still settling for second in Pool ‘A’.
A win will put India into the semi-finals and a chance for their first Champions Trophy medal since their bronze at Amstelveen in 1982.
Striker S.K. Uthappa said his team still took confidence going forward despite the loss to the Germans.
“Team morale is very high because we knew that it wouldn’t be an easy game to play against the Olympic gold medallists, so we were prepared for a good fight and that’s what happened,” he said. “It was most important that we finished on top and that is what we did.”
England led after 11 minutes when Mark Gleghorne converted a field-goal effort. New Zealand wasted three first-half penalty corner chances but upped the ante after the interval, eventually levelling through Phillip Burrows with seven minutes remaining.
England 1 New Zealand 1
Germany 3 India 2
Netherlands 5 Belgium 4
Australia 1 Pakistan 0
Germany v Pakistan, New Zealand v The Netherlands, India v Belgium, England v Australia.—Agencies