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Pakistan downs fighting Korea

By S. Thyagarajan

Netherlands 3South Africa 2

Pakistan 3Korea 0

ATHENS, AUG. 19. In an absorbing duel, former champion Pakistan edged out a strong Korean challenge to strengthen its chances to make the grade from Pool `A' of the men's hockey competition this morning. All the three goals came in the second half.

For Pakistan that started the campaign on the wrong foot losing to Germany, the comeback into contention only underlines the resilience of its players to rise to the occasion. True, the 7-0 verdict against Egypt the other day bolstered the goal aggregate, but this morning the team was tactically superior and technically better than the Koreans.

The Koreans defended stoically and held the edge in the first half. But the Pakistani defence, notably goalkeeper Salman Akbar, guarded the zone tightly denying the Koreans any advantage.

Almost throughout the second half the Pakistanis were on top, thanks to some incisive movements by Shakeel Abbasi supported by skipper Nadeem. Within minutes after resumption came a spectacular goal by Rehan Bhatt, who deflected a free hit by Sohail Abbas.

Gaining in confidence and sharpening the attack, Pakistan enlarged the lead when Shakeel Abbasi netted a cross from Rehan Bhatt. Hockey then on was played at a furious pace with no quarter asked for and none given. The Korean defence began to falter, and a yellow card to Yew Woon Kon increased the tension. Amidst this emerged the stunner of a penalty corner from Sohail Abbas for the third goal.

With six points, Pakistan is ahead of Korea whose tally is four,

Dutch made to sweat

Defending champion, the Netherlands, crossed one more hurdle in its quest for semifinal berth from Pool `B'. The South Africans literally made the Dutch sweat in the hot, humid morning sun before succumbing to the last minute goal by Karol Klaver.

The fervour and fluency displayed by the South Africans, at least in the first phase of the contest suggested trouble for the Dutch. And indeed it proved so when they hoisted a 2-0 lead and led 2-1 half-time. Not only did the South Africans attack with vigour but defended well enough to keep the famous Dutch combination headed by the enigmatic Teun de Nooijer.

A brilliant backhander from Steve Evans that simply bemused the seasoned goalkeeper, Guus Vogels put South Africa ahead. As though it was not enough, Ian Symonds found the target to escalate the pressure on the Dutch.

Accelerating the pace the Dutch frontline swarmed the rival area and a scrimmage resulted in Deriks Geert-Jan scoring from a reverse shot. But the Korean umpire, Han, was not exactly satisfied whether the shot was taken from outside the side-line behind the goal. He had to consult his colleague, the New Zealand's McCraken before awarding the verdict.

Shortly after the break and struggling palpably to get things right, Netherlands levelled when Teun di Nooijer slammed in. Still a draw was on the cards but a minute before the hooter Karol Klaver netted to give the Dutch their third win in as many matches. With nine points, their semifinal slot is more or less registered.

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