Pakistan thumped South Korea 6-2 to post their first win of the Champions Trophy on Thursday, while Germany scored a last-gasp winner against Great Britain.
Pakistan came from behind to snap a three-game losing streak at the last major men’s tournament before the London Olympics, with captain Muhammad Imran and Abdul Khan both notching a brace.
Imran proved the inspiration for a Pakistan fightback after Lee Nam-Yong’s seventh minute goal gave Korea the lead, with the skipper converting a penalty corner after 15 minutes to put the Green Shirts on the board.
Khan followed up with a field goal one minute later and from there Pakistan looked assured, holding their nerve when Korea equalised and sealing the win with a four-goal burst in the final 10 minutes.
Imran said Pakistan, making their first appearance at the tournament since 2007, had finally put together a consistent performance after patchy displays in the opening rounds, including a 6-1 loss to defending champions Australia.
“For the whole match we played very well,” he said.
Manager Khawaja Junaid was pleased with the way his team bounced back from the confidence-sapping loss to the Kookaburras.
He said that the Green Shirts, whose early losses mean they are out of medal contention in Auckland, still lagged behind the world’s top teams but the gap was closing.
“I think that was the turning point for our team,” he said.
“We played with organisational structure and discipline. We made less emotional mistakes, less (emphasis on) individual play. I think that’s the way to improve.
“It’s still a long way to the Olympics and, taking a realistic approach, we know we’re still behind the top teams, but we’re working hard.”
The win keeps alive Pakistan’s hopes of securing fifth place in the eight-nation event, which would guarantee a spot at next year’s competition in Argentina.
In the other Pool D match Germany overcame Britain 2-1, thanks to a last-minute penalty conversion from captain Jan-Marco Montag.
Britain, looking to restore some pride after an 8-1 mauling from Spain on Tuesday, began nervously, conceding a goal to Martin Zwicker after four minutes.
Glenn Kirkham put Britain on level terms mid-way through the first half and the German defence came under intense pressure after the break.
But Germany finished stronger and were awarded two penalty corners in the final minute, the second of which Montag flicked into the net over the top of British keeper James Fair.
In Pool C, which will determine the top four placings, Australia play the Netherlands later Thursday and Spain face hosts New Zealand.