By Anne Das
It was a third placing match Pakistan won, but it was a big win when they beat Japan 5-3 in an exciting game in the third and fourth placing match in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2022 International Men’s hockey tournament at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium, Ipoh, tonight.
Maybe it was the presence of newly elected FIH president Tayab Datuk Tayyab Ikram, who after the game went down onto to the field to congratulate them and also met the Japanese players and officials.,
Tayab is now a citizen of Macau, he was born in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s South African coach Siegfried Aikman attributed his team’s performance to finally playing to their potential and him knowing the Japanese well.
“We are relatively a young team building folr the World Cup in 2026. We are changing the mindset of players to play modern hockey and in the short time of four weeks, they have been performing in patches and at the same time making mistakes,” said Aikman.
“But today they played with a winning mentality and played to our game strategy to attack quickly and shut them down.
“However, there is a lot more for us to learn, correct, be consistent and to cultivate the European way of playing the game.
“Nevertheless, overall, it has been good for us to be exposed to the high-performance matches and against Japan today. We did well against a team who had 10 players, who played in the Olympics and another five who were in the Olympic training squad. I had our captain (Umar Bhutta) who was the senior player and I had nine players who earned their first cap here and a few more with less than 10 caps.”
In the earlier round robin fixture, both teams had played to a 2-2 with Japan coming from two goals down to draw.
Japan’s coach Akira Takahashi was disappointed that his team made too many errors.
“We led, then conceded, allowed Pakistan to take the lead and every time we reduced the deficit, we allowed them to get back into the game through our own mistakes,” said Takahashi.
“We came here wanting to win the title and having missed the final, we should have returned with a third placing.”
Japan took the lead in the game in the 10th minute through Kentaro Fukuda. But Pakistan did not waste any time to respond, when the next minute in a quick counter attack, Abdul Shahid equalised in a one-on-one situation against Japan’s goalkeeper Takashi Yoshikawa.
Japan reduced the deficit when Yuma Nagai scored off a field goal in the 31st minute but before Japan could push further, Pakistan moved forward with their fourth goal when Rooman scored again in the 35th minute for a 4-2 lead.
Japan, after several close calls and misses scored after that, finally saw Yuma scoring his second goal in the 50th minute to reduce the deficit again to 3-4.
It was short lived, as Pakistan increased their lead further in the 53rd minute, when Abdul Rana scored after a brilliant solo effort by Juniad Manzoor to set up the score for 5-3.
The match ended 5-3 in favour of Pakistan as they fell to the ground kissing it and celebrating. Another feather to their cap was their captain Umar being awarded the man of the match.
PAKISTAN 5 to JAPAN 3