Ipoh (Malaysia): Pakistan edged past defending champions New Zealand 4-3 in the opening match of the Sultan Azlan Shah hockey Tournament here on Saturday. Pakistan were helped by three goals from their captain Imran Muhammad who converted penalty corners in the 19th, 28th and 58th minutes. The other goal came from Hazeen Khan Abdul in the 21st minute.
For the losers, Russell Kane converted a penalty corner in the 30th minute, Tarrant Blair scored a field goal in the 52nd minute. Besides, a penalty corner conversion came from defender Hayward Andy in the 56th minute. Pakistan coach Akhtar Rafeel said that he was pleased with the result because coming from a cold place in New Zealand where the team was playing some practice games, to suddenly playing in hot conditions was difficult.
"It was tough match to beat the defending champions. Captain Imran Muhammad made the difference. It can only get better from now on," he said.
Imran Muhammad said he was happy to play his part in the team's victory.
"It was a team effort and this win is surely a morale booster for the tough contest ahead," said Imran.
New Zealand coach Colin Batch said although the loss was a setback, he saw the positives. He appreciated the way his team came back from 0-3 to make it 3-3 and labelled it as a commendable achievement.
"Three youngsters were drafted into the side and they made good use of opportunities thrust upon them," he said.
Batch added that the squad had five youngsters in the 18+ age group and said he was looking forward to a better team effort in the remaining matches.