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Hockey: Pakistan, Australia in Champions Trophy semis

SAMAA | - Posted: Dec 11, 2014 | Last Updated: 7 years ago
Posted: Dec 11, 2014 | Last Updated: 7 years ago

BHUBANESWAR: Muhammad Irfan scored two penalty corners in as many minutes as Pakistan bounced back to stun world number two the Netherlands 4-2 for a place in the Champions Trophy semi-finals on Thursday.

World champions Australia, seeking what would be an incredible sixth successive title, also cruised into the last four with a 4-2 win over Argentina in the eastern Indian city of Bhubaneswar.

Pakistan, winless against the Dutch in their last 12 Champions Trophy meetings since 1998, had lost all three league matches in the current competition, including an embarrassing 2-8 thrashing by England.

But the tournament format, which ensured all eight teams a place in the knock-out rounds irrespective of the results in the league, helped Pakistan turn their fortunes around in dramatic style.

A sixth minute goal from Jeroen Hertzberger was equalised by Muhammad Bhutta in the second session before skipper Muhammad Imran converted a penalty corner to put Pakistan 2-1 ahead by half-time.

Constantijn Jonker drew level soon after resumption, but the Dutch were handicapped in the fourth quarter after Sander Baart was benched with a yellow card for almost 10 minutes.

Pakistan seized the opportunity to swamp the defence of their depleted rivals and Irfan struck twice in quick succession to hand his team a shock win.

Pakistan coach Shahnaz Sheikh said the win over the Dutch, who had lost to India in their last league match, did not surprise him.

“We had studied them very carefully and we had found the right combination in our league games,” the former international said.

“This is a very important win for us and hopefully we will continue to shine in the semi-final. An Asian team doing well in hockey is always good for the health of the sport.”

Pakistan endured a miserable year in which they failed to qualify for the World Cup played in June and were also denied a direct entry into the 2016 Olympics after losing the gold medal to India at the Asian Games in October.

Dutch coach Max Caldas blamed the defeat on his team's “undisciplined” performance, but conceded the loss of a player in the fourth quarter proved costly.

“It was appalling to have a man out for so long in a 15-minute quarter,” Caldas said. “But the blame lies in a very undisciplined display by the players. They just could not handle the pressure of a big match.”

Pakistan await the winners of Thursday's last quarter-final between Belgium and hosts India in the semis.

Australia, fielding a new-look team after retaining the World Cup earlier this year, slammed three quick goals after Pan-American champions Argentina had taken a 2-1 lead by the 35th minute.

Jeremy Hayward drew level with a penalty corner in the 37th, Daniel Beale made it 3-2 towards the end of the third quarter and Chris Ciriello completed the tally in the fourth quarter.

“Ours is a developmental side, so to make the semis is a good achievement,” said Kookaburras coach Graham Reid.

Australia will take on either England or Olympic champions Germany for a place in the final.

“It should be a good game whoever we play,” said Reid. -AFP

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