Pakistan beat New Zealand 2-0 in friendly

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Beijing, Aug 7 (UNI) Pakistan found the winning touch ahead of the start of the 29th Olympic Games, beating New Zealand 2-0 at the Green Olympic Hockey Stadium here today.

In another practice match, Australia beat Germany 2-1 to send an early warning to the others. Australia is a strong contender for the title.

Pakistan had lost 1-4 to South Korea in their first friendly yesterday.

A brace by penalty corner specialist Imran Warsi in the first half settled the matter in a practice match that saw Pakistan playing with more confidence and acumen than they had displayed against the Koreans.

Imran first flicked the ball into the net in the 12nd minute and then followed it up with another goal 11 minutes later with almost the same technique to give Pakistan a morale boosting win ahead of their first pool match against England on August 11.

Pakistan were without their centre half M Saqlain and forward Waqas Shrif as they were nursing injuries they received in the match against Korea.

Following early exchanges, Pakistan broke into the New Zealand defence twice in the first 10 minutes before earning a penalty corner in the 11th minute. Imran dragged flicked the ball into the net and they started playing with more aggression and coordination.

The winners could have added some more goals through field efforts had Rehan Butt and Adnan Maqsood succeeded in flicking the ball home on two occasions.

However, Warsi made it too comfortable for the greenshirts when he scored his second goal in the 23rd minute to give Pakistan a comfortable two goal lead. There was no addition to the score in the second half that saw New Zealand playing with more aggression.

The lack of finishing power, however, kept the Kiwis' score-sheet blank.

''It is not the winning or losing that matters in these practice matches. What really matter is the players coordination in both offence and defence,'' Pakistan chief coach Zakauddin said after the game.

He was all praise for the defence as well as the half line.

''The right half Javed played really well and so did the captain Zeeshan at the defence. All and al it was much improved performance than the one we have seen against Korea the other day,'' Zaka said.

The chief coach said against Korea, Pakistan played bad hockey for just 10 minutes during which it conceded three goals.

''Here in a match against New Zealand, players played consistently throughout the 70 minute play.'' He was not convinced that New Zealand was a weaker side. ''They are as good as Koreans are and they play hockey with same exuberance than the Koreans. The other day our game plan changed once we lost Saqlain in the middle. However, today there were no mishaps and we went on to win the game easily,'' he said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan centre half M Saqlain is recovering fast following a nasty blow he received during the match against Korea yesterday.

Saqlain, who received a head butt in a midfield melee, required two stitches and is expected to get back in action in a couple of days. ''Saqlain is recovering fast and is expected to get back in action in a couple of days time. He is expected to get fit to play in the match against England on August 11. Saqlain is an important player for Pakistan. He is experienced and knows how to handle the mid field play,'' Zakauddin stated.

Waqas Sharif was the other Pakistan player who was sidelined with injury. ''He has recovered well from foot injury and would be fit to play against England,'' Zaka added.

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