Pakistani women hockey team created history by qualifying for the semi-final of the Asian Hockey Federation Cup for the first time, at the Thailand National Hockey Training Centre in Bangkok.
In their last pool fixture against Singapore, who had won both their previous games, Pakistan needed at least a draw to make it to the semi-finals. When Pakistan led 1-0 with just 11 minutes to go, the last four place seemed secure.
Moreover, at the time, they were also controlling the proceedings.
But the match took a dramatic turn. In the 59th minute, a well-coordinated Singaporean attack from right, found Chan Ivy unmarked and she made it 1-1 with a superb angular shot.
The remaining 11 minutes saw, a continuous barrage of Singaporean attacks. They repeatedly entered Pakistani circle and had a number of shots on the goal but the Pakistani deep defence managed to keep their castle intact.
Goal Keeper Rizwana Yasmin, the player of the match, performed heroically and affected unbelievable saves.
A strange happening was also witnessed. Off Singapore’s last penalty corner, the umpire sent not one but two Pakistani defenders to the centre line for breaking the goal line. Yet, with just goal keeper and two defenders, Pakistan survived.
The match had started the same way as Pakistan’s earlier matches. Singapore making repeated inroads through a porous defence. During the first 12 minutes, the East Asians had several chances including two penalty corners but the back line led by inform custodian held out. Though, the best chance of that period fell to Pakistan. In a rare counter attack, Afshan Naureen received the ball in an ideal spot only but her shot execution took a long time and the goal keeper positioned herself to save it.
After the onslaught, Pakistan regrouped well and created another opportunity. But the cross from right wasn’t availed. Mid field show persisted for quite some time. In the 30th minute, Singapore got another penalty corner. Net minder Rizwana palmed it away well.
Finally, Pakistan broke the ice. Two minutes before the shooter, Afshan Naureen put the ball into the net after a delightful swift move originating from the right side.
Early part of the second half followed the first half script with Pakistani defence appearing groggy. Singapore wasted two penalty corners as well as a few open chances. Pakistan had their first penalty corner of the day in the 46th minute. Ishrat Abbas’ hit was padded away by the diving goal keeper. In the 51s minute, Pakistan’s leading scorer of the tournament, Mayira Sabir received a loose ball near 23 metre area, beautifully eliminated an opponent but failed to beat the goal keeper from a good position.
After having a lion’s share of the exchanges for quite some time, Pakistan surprisingly conceded the equaliser in the 59th minute. This was followed by Singapore’s utter domination during which they did everything apart from scoring as Pakistani short stopper Rizwana Yasmin was in the form of her life.
The semi-finals are scheduled on Saturday. Pakistan would know their opponent after the conclusion of matches in the other pool.
It is Pakistan women hockey team’s first appearance in any international event in three years and that makes the achievement more remarkable. The girls remained unbeaten in the pool, winning one and drawing two matches.
Secretary PHF women wing, Ms Tanzeela Cheema, talked to the players and the team management on the telephone and congratulated them on the great feat.