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London: Pakistan draws with Spain in hockey


Pakistan opened their hockey campaign at the London Olympics with a spirited 1-1 draw against Spain on Monday.

The scoreline was not indicative of the free-flowing game witnessed at the Riverbank Arena in London, with Pakistan looking the more convincing team in brief spells. Even then, the draw was a favorable result for the Greenshirts who were expected to be to taken to task by the 2008 Beijing Olympics silver medallists.

Both teams took a while to hit top gear and the first-half saw plenty of unforced errors and turnovers. Pakistan, it seemed, had put a string of big losses in the warm-up to the Olympics well and truly behind them and put on a performance which was very uncharacteristic of the recent form they have displayed. They were quick on the counter and compact in defense, marking the Spaniards to the man. Their positive intent almost provided early dividends and the first real scoring opportunity of the match came to them through a penalty-corner. Captain Sohail Abbas and ‘the king of the drag-flick’ stepped up and nearly provided them with the first goal, his powerful strike deflected by Francisco Cortes in the Spanish goal.

Shaken by the effort, Spain swiftly mounted an attack of their own, denied only by a superb stick save by defender Muhammad Ifran.

It was left to veteran striker Rehan Butt to open the scoring for Pakistan, and he put the Greenshirts in the lead on a great counter-attack that opened up the Spanish defense. It was a heartening bit of play for Pakistan, who recently have been criticized for squandering the easiest of chances.

The celebrations though were short-lived as Spain equalized almost immediately, Pau Quemada hammering in a long pass with a stunning reverse shot.

With the game level, the two teams scrapped hard but failed to provide finishing touches to their well-crafted moves.

The resulting 1-1 draw meant the Greenshirt could walk off the pitch with some confidence restored ahead of their encounter against Argentina on Wednesday.

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