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Pakistan clinched a 1-0 victory through a last-minute penalty corner goal from Abdul Khan in the round-robin league encounter against South Korea in the fourth Asian Champions Trophy.
A last-gasp Korean attempt to exert pressure on the rival citadel led to a Pakistan counter-attack that earned them a penalty corner with just 28 seconds left for the hooter.
Abdul was allowed space by the Korean defenders to take a step forward and sent in a low shot that went through a few sticks to sound the boards and spark celebrations in the Pakistan team.
The Koreans dominated the possession but failed to convert it into goals and even muffed six penalty corners.
Having lost their opening match to Malaysia 2-4, Pakistan were desperate for three points from this game, but striker Muhammad Irfan Jr muffed a sitter in the 39th minute when he failed to connect to a diagonal ball from Abdul that even went across goalkeeper Hong Doopyo.
Pakistan had earlier failed to make use of two penalty corners and were forced to wait until the dying seconds for the match-winner.
Pakistan coach Khawaja Junaid was delighted at the turn of events and praised his players for maintaining structure in their game even when under persistent pressure from the Koreans.
“The Koreans were everywhere and they built a lot of pressure on us, but the boys did well to defend stoutly and keep the structure,” Junaid said.
He said Pakistan had squandered away the lead in yesterday’s match against Malaysia, but this victory had out them back on track.
South Korea team coach Paul Lissek expressed his annoyance at the award of the penalty corner, but said his players should not have been too ambitious in the last minute.
“Because I am annoyed at the decision to award the last penalty corner, I won’t say anything other than that I through the reverse shot by the Pakistani striker was a dangerous shot and the umpire should have blown for foul rather than award a penalty corner,” said Lissek.
“But we made a bad mistake in opening up our defence to a counter attack. When you cannot score a goal in 59 minutes, it is not wise to try too many difficult things in the last minute,” the coach said.
Lissek said there was a lot his young side could do in this tournament, despite losing the first outing through a last minute goal.
“Inexperience cost us this game, but we have a lot to play for,” said Lissek, asserting that his boys would give India a tough contest tomorrow.
“India are a good side and we must look to capitalise on our chances. We lost 1-2 to India in the Champions Trophy in London earlier this year,” said Lissek.