IPOH (Malaysia), June 2: Pakistan’s miserable Azlan Shah Cup campaign came to an end with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Great Britain here on Saturday.
The Greenshirts finished at the bottom of the seven-nation table with just three points from six matches having bagged the silver medal last year after losing the final to Australia through a golden goal.
Trailing at half-time, Britain battled back in style to secure victory over Pakistan in the final group match.
Pakistan took the lead after 15 minutes when Abdul Haseem Khan made a good jinking run through, and he smashed a hard reverse-stick shot into the net, giving goalkeeper James Fair little chance.
But Britain were not too unsettled by going behind, and they came out for the second-half with renewed confidence and different tactics which helped them dominate the second-half as Barry Middleton (47th minute) and Ashley Jackson (66th ) scored.
Starting with a win over Argentina, three-time champions Pakistan then lost five successive matches. This is the first time that Pakistan have finished at the bottom of the table in the tournament.
Previously, Pakistan’s lowest ever ranking had been sixth place in 2007, when there were eight teams in the competition.
Pakistan coach Khwaja Junaid said one of the key reasons for his side’s dismal performance was the inclusion of six juniors, who had played in the Junior Asia Cup early May in Malaysia.
“We now realise that it was asking too much from these youngsters who could not cope with the demands of playing in back-to-back tournaments,” he said.
Britain coach Jason Lee said the team that played in the competition would be retained for the Olympics, except for two players who would be left out.
“It has been a good tournament for me as we had a variety of opponents and I picked up a lot of pointers that will serve us well this summer,” he said.
Britain will play India for third place while Malaysia, the only team in the tournament who have not qualified for the Olympics, and South Korea will battle for fifth position.
All the matches will be played on Sunday.
Also on Sunday would be the grand final where New Zealand will meet Argentina.
Argentina made it to the finals after a 1-0 victory over hosts Malaysia on Saturday and the South Americans will go into the last round with considerable trepidation, given that at an earlier meeting in the tournament they were crushed 5-2 by the Kiwis.
Argentina faced some anxious moments as Malaysia played an attacking game, but Pedro Ibarra’s penalty corner conversion in the 40th minute secured their passage into the final.
Argentina had won the Azlan Shah Cup in 2008 by defeating India in the final.
After being assured of a spot in the final, New Zealand showed no urgency in their last match against South Korea, who clinched a 1-0 victory through a penalty corner conversion by Jang Jong-Hyun two minutes from the hooter.
Great Britain 2 Pakistan 1
South Korea 1 New Zealand 0
Malaysia 0 Argentina 1—Agencies