Pakistan scrap past Canada

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Beijing, Aug 14 (UNI) Former champion Pakistan waged a grim battle before scraping past lowly Canada 3-1 to record their first win in two outings in the Olympic Hockey competition here late last night.

Pakistan started off with aggressive intent. A short corner was gained and squandered in the very first minute. Then there were a slew of attempts on the Canadian citadel but more than 'keeper Michael Mahood's skill or grit under the bar, it was forwards' lack of finesse in finishing that caused Pakistan grief.

Shakeel Abbasi dribbled right to the goal mouth only to slam it into Mahood, Rehan Butt shot one wide from the right; a place hit from right outside the circle was botched; then Abbasi yet again failed to get his shot past the goalie.

With the goal in sight, Muhammad Zubair and Shafqat Rasool too got it wrong.

It seemed as if the entire Pakistan forward-line had lost its scoring touch simultaneously.

Canada's only claim to have done anything of note in this Game was sneaking in a goal against Australia, not to mention conceding half a dozen. Pakistan had not allowed them much of a look-in into its half for the first 10 minutes, but this was to change thanks to erratic shooting.

Canada increasingly found its feet and started making sallies towards the Pakistan goal. One of these got them a penalty corner as the hooter sounded for the first half and Bindi Kullar rammed it home from a rebound.

Thus going into the break, Pakistan had the mortification of facing deficit instead of being way ahead.

Barely four minutes into the second half, Pakistan got two goals that were only seconds apart -- the first from a penalty corner conversion by specialist Muhammad Imran and the second by Shafqat Rasool, from a Muhammad Saqlain pass that for a moment seemed too long, back-slapping it so hard that there was no stopping it before it nearly tore the top of the net.

This double power-packed conversion gave Pakistan a new wind and though it brought some method in the approach work, the goals still eluded them. The cycle of unforced errors in defence had started creeping in when on a counter-attack Muhammad Waqas in a most deft manner dribbled round the rushing Mahood and slotted the ball into the empty goal to make it 3-1 in the 57th minute.

Pakistan surely dominated the second half, and should have scored more but their strikers turned out to be poor marksmen.

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