Pakistan put up a sparkling display to overcome host Malaysia 4-1, and ensured itself a place in the semifinals of the Asia Cup hockey championship here on Sunday.
It was an absorbing match involving two well-matched outfits. But Pakistan, which was a bit more skilful and aggressive, emerged a deserving winner.
The pace and precision exhibited by the Pakistan frontline — where Dilber Muhammad played the stellar role along with Zubair Mohammad — were bewitching to behold.
It was the Zubair who restored parity after Malaysia struck through a penalty corner in the first half. . Another impressive performance was that of Shafqat Rasool who broke through the rival defence time and again.
Malaysia matched its opponent move for move, and it was Shafqat’s goal — Pakistan’s third — which sent the host sliding to defeat.
Korea beat Bangladesh 9-0 — a performance that both mirrored the team’s confidence borne out being the first Asian team to qualify for the next World Cup, and underlined its stature as the defending champion here.
It must be conceded that Bangladesh offered all the resistance it could drum up against a combination of proven class. Expectedly, the Koreans struck mainly through penalty corners where the accomplished Jang Jong held undisputed sway.
India takes on the reigning champion in a key Pool B encounter on Monday. This match will go a long way in assessing the levels of the team which is yet to make the grade for the next World Cup in The Hague in 2014.
Not much can be made out of India’s 8-0 victory over Oman in the opening match; in a way, it provided a glimpse of methodical work-patterns but was devoid of ingenuity or improvisation required to tackle strong outfits like Korea.
India’s record against the Koreans is not exactly glowing. India has lost 30 of the 68 matches played, winning 26 and drawing 12.
In the Asia Cup, though, it has fared better, with five victories out of the eight played since 1985. Korea did not take part in the inaugural edition in 1982 at Karachi.
The last meeting between the teams was at the same venue last March, in the Azlan Shah tournament where India lost 2-1.
The results: Pool B: Korea 9 (You Hyo Sik, Hyun Hye Sung-2, Jang Jong-3, Jung Man Jae, Lee Seung, Kim Yong Jin) bt Bangladesh 0. Pool A: Japan 5 (Kawakeni Kei, Nagaswa Katsuyoshi, Fujimoto Ippai, Kawauchi Shinji, Nakayama Yasuhiro) bt Chinese Taipei 1 (Chen Yuan Fan); Pakistan 4 (Zubair Muhammad, Dilber Muhammad, Shafqat Rasool, Umar Bhutta) bt Malaysia 1 (Rahim Razie).
Monday’s matches: Bangladesh v Oman (3-35 p.m. IST); India v Korea (5-35 p.m.) with six points.