LONDON - Defying heavy rains and a water-logged blue pitch, Pakistan came back from the edge to clinch a 5-4 verdict against South Africa in a high-scoring pool A match on Sunday to relit their hopes for a place on the medal podium after a three-minute blitz at the dying moments of the match which saw two goals that included the match equaliser and the winning goal.

Skipper Sohail Abbas converted the only penalty-corner of the team in 64th minute to make it 4-4 and experienced Waseem Ahmed capped a fine move to complete the winning margin 5-4. The rain stopped and sun broken through the rain laden clouds in second half when Pakistan fought back to record their second win and to raise their points tally in the six team pool to seven, sharing the top three position on the table with favourites Australia and Great Britain.

The win means Pakistan could hope for looking at the semi-final position but their fate hangs for reaching to take one of the two top position in the pool lay on Great Britain and Australia match that will be played later in the day and their own contest against Australia on Tuesday.

In the post match comments given to the media, former Olympian Akhtar Rasool, who is both the chief coach and the manager of the team, after praising the team’s fine performance expressed his reservations on the performance of the keeper Imran Shah. Akhtar while making his comment forgot that Imran had played under most difficult circumstances with heavy rains coming down and a heavy pitch. He is not the only person responsible for giving away four goals but the entire defence should also share the responsibility. Akhtar is too experienced hockey official to blame just one individual. The time for Pakistan is to avoid putting blames and bring the team together and plan for crucial match against Australia.  The scoring honours of the match went to young Abdul Haseem Khan who did proud his well-known uncle, former Olympian and current chief hockey selector Hanif Khan, by getting two goals. He scored the first equaliser in 20th minute and scored his second and team’s third goal in 25th minute that helped Pakistan change end with honours evenly shared at half time.

Shafqat Rasool scored the second equaliser in 23rd minute. Pakistan’s four goals came from field moves and only one from penalty corner. Pakistan got four penalty corners whereas South Africa got seven penalty corners and got two goals. Justin Reid Ross converted two penalty corners in 22nd and 35th minute and Thornton Mcdade struck in the second minute and Wade Paton in the 38th minute were other goal getters for the South Africans.

The crucial match between Australia and England ended in 3-3 draw leaving the last round of the Group A sensational, as four teams are still in the contention for the semi-final place.

 Elsewhere in Group B action, the Netherlands claimed the first semi-final spot in the men’s tournament with a 3-1 win over Germany.

The win guarantees the Dutch their seventh-consecutive top four finish and puts the defending Olympic champion, Germany, in peril of not cracking into the semi-finals. The Germans need to pick up at least one point in their game on Tuesday against New Zealand or hope for a Korean loss to make the playoffs.

Germany took the lead just two minutes into action on its first penalty corner chance. Christopher Zeller easily hit the mark on the chance to give the Germans the early 1-0 advantage, it would be the last that they would hold the advantage as the Dutch sparked back to life and never looked back. The lead lasted for just over 10 minutes when Bob de Voogd scooped up a rebound and fired in the second-chance shot to tie the game at one.

De Nooijer’s go-ahead goal came just moments into the second half as he was waiting by the far post for a spot on pass and gave the Dutch the 2-1 lead and  the Netherlands quickly built on their lead when Weerden went top shelf on a penalty corner to open up a 3-1 lead. South Korea scored on three out of five penalty-corners to earn a comfortable win against India 4-1, leaving India dejected and still pointless.  The match between Belgium and New Zealand ended in a 1-1 draw.

 Group A standings

Team    M    W    T    L    GF    GA    GD    Pts

Australia     4    2    2    0    16    5    11    8

Great Britain     4    2    2    0    13    7    6    8

Pakistan     4    2    1    1    9    9    0    7

Spain     3    1    1    1    4    8    -4    4

Argentina     3    0    1    2    3    8    -5    1

South Africa     4    0    1    3    8    16    -8    1