Pakistan edge Ireland in thriller; China notch first win

Ireland 1 (Mikey Watt) Pakistan 2 (Waseem Ahmed, Sohail Abbas)

It proved to be little more than a dress rehearsal, but Ireland and Pakistan served up some cracking fare in front of a raucous Belfield crowd tonight in the final pool clash of the UCD Four Nations.

With China’s 2-1 victory over France earlier in the day guaranteeing Paul Revington’s charges a place in today’s final, the Irish were able to continue to express themselves having played some scintallating hockey in the midweek 6-1 thrashing of France.

But amid a flurry of chances at either end  it was the Asian side – who last visited Dublin in 2008 – that made the breakthrough, Waseem Ahmed’s deflection after 24 minutes wrong-footing David Harte in the Irish goal.

Sohail Abbas doubled that lead before the break with a ripping trademark drag-flick, but it wasn’t all one-way traffic; reverses from Geoff McCabe and Timmy Cockram the best efforts for the Irish.

Cockram just cleared the crossbar with another second-half effort while Ireland lived on their wits at times at the back, but they put a new complexion on the game midway through the half,  Santander hitman Watt playing an intricate one-two with Cockram before slamming home a reverse from near the penalty spot.

David Harte did well to smother a Zubair effort while John Jermyn’s big ball went untouched when begging for a redirection in the closing minutes, as Pakistan held out for victory, though Ireland topped the round robin stage on goal difference.

“We were disappointed to concede two goals that we believe we should be controlling and will need to improve on this area before tomorrow,” said Irish coach Revington.

“The team are excited to be playing Pakistan again tomorrow in the final and are confident that our improvements will lead to a more competitive performance.”

The sides will meet again in tonight’s final (8pm), with France and China vying for third place in the curtain-raiser at 6pm.

IRELAND: D Harte (GK), Lewis, McCabe, Gormley (capt), Watt, Cargo, Jermyn, Darling, Cockram, C Harte, Loughrey

Subs: Brennan, McCandless, Maguire, Ames, O’Donoghue

PAKISTAN: Akbar (GK), Zubair, Ahmed, Imran (C), Abbasi, Butt, Rizwan, Waqas, Mehmood, Irfan & Abbas

Subs: Haseem Khan, F. Ahmed, Rasool, Tousiq, Kashif

Men’s UCD 4 Nations, Belfield, Dublin: China 2 (N Yubo, AN Other) France 1 (F Magner);   Ireland 1 (M Watt) Pakistan 2 (W Ahmed, S Abbas);

Final standings: 1. Ireland 6 pts (+6); 2 . Pakistan 6 pts (+2); 3. China 3pts (-2); 4. France 3pts (-5).

Today: 3rd/4th place playoff: France v China (6pm): Final: Ireland v Pakistan (8pm).

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