Canada’s men’s field hockey team opened the 2016 Azlan Shah Cup with a 3-1 loss to Pakistan in the sweltering Malaysian heat on Wednesday.
Despite a good second half, two first half goals were too much to overcome for Canada’s men as the 10th ranked Pakistanis were able to hold on for the win.
After a feeling out process for the first ten minutes, Pakistan went on the offensive and forced Canadian keeper David Carter to make an outstanding save on Rizwan Ali, who got open behind Canada’s back line and had a breakaway opportunity.
Carter read the play well and charged out to cut off the angle and made a pad save.
Canada settled in after the save and made for a fairly even first quarter, getting up the field multiple times but were unabale to penetrate the Pakistani circle.
Carter made another big save of a Pakistani smash in the second quarter and kept the game scoreless until late in the half.
In 27th minute, Pakistan – against the run of play, just as Canada was beginning to see more of the ball – countered with an aerial to Muhammad Arslan Qadir who deflected the ball by Carter in close.
Qadir was able to add another goal just a minute later on a penalty corner as Carter made the first save but the rebound was put in.
Canada came out with renewed purpose in the second half and began to take over the game. They possessed the ball in the Pakistani end for most of the third quarter and got a quality opportunity from the stick of Iain Smythe, who found himself at the end of a play that built up from the midfield with Sukhi Panesar. Smythe’s shot was stopped by Pakistani keeper Imran Butt.
But Canada kept pressing and were rewarded early in the fourth quarter.
After sustained pressure, Mark Pearson quickly took a free hit from the 23 meter line and found Matthew Sarmento on the baseline. Sarmento rushed towards goal and moved the ball to Richard Hildreth wide open at the side of the net where he tapped it in for Canada’s first goal.
Canada, sensing the Pakistani’s frustration, continue to push to tie the game, but in the 52nd minute their hopes for a comeback were dashed when Pakistani earned a penalty corner, once again against the run of play.
This time, the ball was put behind Carter on a dragflick by Muhammad Arshad, who went high to the stick side to seal the 3-1 win.
Canada is back in action on Thursday when they face New Zealand at 6:00pm in Ipoh, Malaysia (3:00am PT/6:00am ET in Canada).
Click here for a breakdown of how to follow Canada at the 2016 Azlan Shah Cup.