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Resilient Oman hold Pakistan to 2-2 draw

Resilient Oman hold Pakistan to 2-2 draw

LAHORE: Two fine goals by Fahad Hassan Juma helped Oman U-18 hockey team staged a fine comeback to hold their Pakistan counterparts to a 2-2 draw here at the National Hockey Stadium on Friday.

The visitors, looking fit and in form, displayed brisk hockey to surprise everyone present at the ground and, despite being 0-2 down against the hosts at one time, fought back gallantly through Juma’s back to back goals in the second half to level the game.

Both teams, however, also displayed strong defense in the game by thwarting several attacking moves from each other.

Around four Pakistan players went off the ground due to cramps during the match which raised questions on the poor fitness level of the players. As opposed to that, the Omanese never left the field and displayed better standard of fitness.

Three Pakistan players — Mohammad Waqas, Adeel Latif and Waqar Ali — were also shown green cards for their fouls on the field whereas Oman’s Abdul Hamid was also shown the green card.

Pakistan were made to wait for 30 minutes to gain the lead when Waqar Ali slammed a field goal. He received the ball in the circle and after dodging one defender he beat goalkeeper Zuhair Azher Zahir to bang the net with a clever push. The 1-0 lead remained intact till the half-time.

Soon after the break, Pakistan earned another field goal through Abdullah Babar to make it 2-0. But from thereon, the Omanese pulled up their socks and came back strongly while keeping a good attacking pace of the game. Their efforts earned them the first goal in the 39th minute when Juma found the net after a short melee in front of the goalpost to reduce the lead to 1-2.

In the 58th minute, Juma again found the net to earn his team a fine draw.

Oman’s head coach Yousufi Darwish Al Siyabi said he was quite satisfied with the result in the first match. Speaking in fluent Urdu, Yousufi said it was a good match and his boys did a fine job in tackling a strong Pakistan side.

Shakir Munir, the former Pakistan goalkeeper who is acting as goalkeeping coach of the Omani team, said special focus was on to improve the fitness level of the players. He said for the last three years Oman was doing good in field of hockey and now it was well prepared to get better results in the U-18 Asia Cup to be held in Bangladesh from Sept 24.

Pakistan head coach and former Olympian Kamran Ashraf, however, looked quite upset at the 2-2 result.

“I think the players were under pressure as they were playing before home crowd after many years. However, I am not disappointed at the way my boys played, and they will come back strongly in the remaining matches,” he said.

He dispelled the impression that his boys lacked fitness but admitted they could not cope with the pressure of playing a game at home after a considerable time period.

It may also be mentioned here that neither the electronic nor the manual scoreboard were functioning in the match while there was also no proper dug-out for the respective teams with the sun blazing down. It seems that neither the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) nor the Sports Board Punjab — the custodian of the National Hockey Stadium — were prepared to host this series which is being played in Lahore after almost a decade.

The National Hockey Stadium is the biggest hockey stadium in the world, having a capacity of 70,000 spectators, and it was indeed a sorry sight that the facilities were not up to the mark to host an international side. Besides, the match started 15 minutes late which created problems for the players in the dying minutes of the match due to poor visibility in fading light.

The second match will be played under floodlights on Saturday (today).

Published in Dawn September 17th, 2016

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