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Australia seal semi-final berth

World champions Australia had to sweat it out to overcome a spirited challenge from Pakistan on their way to a 1-0 win that guaranteed a Men's Hockey semi-final berth at Delhi 2010. The Kookaburras found Pakistan a tough nut to crack, courtesy an exemplary display from a Pakistan backline led by captain Zeeshan Ashraf. The Pakistani defenders were ably supported by an agile custodian - Imran Shah - who was outstanding under the bar. Working in unison with the defence, Shah managed to deny the mighty Australians on numerous occasions at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here.

Pakistan displayed a much-improved performance in the match but failed to avenge their 1-2 World Cup loss to Australia because of poor finishing and brilliant goalkeeping from Australian keeper Nathan Burgers. Burgers continued his impressive showing in the tournament and saved his side on more than one occasion, the first of which came on 17 minutes when he brilliantly denied Shafqat Rasool after he was set up by a great run from Shakeel Abbasi down wide right. Soon after that particular move, custodian Shah saved Pakistan with his agility and smart reflexes in front of the goal.

However, it was Australia who got the match-winner - on 33 minutes - when Chris Ciriello converted their second penalty corner with a fierce flick that swung by Shah's right-hand side. At the stroke of the breather, an alert Burgers denied Pakistan the equaliser when he palmed away a fierce reverse hit from Rehan Butt.
 
The second half turned out to be a tale of missed opportunities as both teams mounted innumerable attacks on goal but failed to utilise a single one, which eventually proved costly for Pakistan.

The Jamie Dwyer-led Australian forwardline seemed off-colour today as barring the winner, they failed to break the stubborn Pakistani defence.

The Australians also wore a sorry look in penalty corners as they converted only one out of the five they had earned in the entire 70 minutes.

In the dying moments of the match, Pakistan got a golden opportunity to drew parity when they were awarded their second penalty corner of the match but wasted it as Muhammad Imran’s flick went high over the bar.

Later, Shah commented, “The goals I saved were because I am a part of the team”, while Pakistani coach Michel van den Heuvel added, “We have a young team and we need a little extra power and luck, but we’ll get to that.”

With an all-win record in the competition, the defending champions will now take on Malaysia in an inconsequential last pool match tomorrow.

Pakistan, on the other hand, will take on India in a must-win match with both the teams eyeing an outright victory to book their place in the last four stage.

- PTI

 

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