Asian Champions Trophy: Pakistan, Japan share the spoils

Action from the match between Japan and Pakistan in the Asian Champions Trophy at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex on Wednesday (Rodolfo Alfonso/Muscat Daily)

Pakistan's hopes to avenge its Asian Games loss to eventual champion Japan in Jakarta were dashed as the two teams played out a 1-1 draw in the preliminary league match of the six-nation Asian Champions Trophy at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex on Wednesday.

The draw followed by India's 4-1 win over South Korea confirmed the passage of two-time champion Pakistan and Asian Games gold medallist into the semis.

Thursday's matches featuring Pakistan against Malaysia (6.55pm) and Japan's game against Oman (9.10pm) will finalise the line-up for the semifinals, to be played on Saturday.

On Wednesday, Pakistan was rescued by experienced Mubashar Ali, whose penalty corner conversion in the 25th minute earned it a draw.

Captain Kenji Kitazato had put Japan ahead in the 12th minute when he swapped passes with Hirotaka Wakuri to flick into the boards. Ali's goal was a result of a low penalty corner drag-flick.

The second half saw both teams squander several scoring opportunities to split two points from this encounter.

Pakistan, with seven points from four matches, is in the third place in the standings behind India and Malaysia, while Japan is on four points from as many games.

Both the team managers - Hassan Sardar of Pakistan and Siegfried Aikman of Japan - were left ruing the missed opportunities.

Sardar said “his team played well”. “We played well, but missed a lot of chances. We should have scored at least two more goals,” said Sardar.

Aikman insisted that Japan should have emerged winner from this match. “I’m disappointed with the draw. We created a lot a chances and should have won this one,” said Aikman, who has made six changes to his squad of the Asian Games because Japan does not have to prepare for the World Cup starting next month.

“Our players are here to learn. We played a mature game today and the young boys have improved with every outing,” he said.

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