Men's hockey - Pakistan pay penalty for missed chances

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China produced an exciting last minute comeback to reach their first ever men's hockey final in a thrilling semifinal victory over seven times winners Pakistan at Al-Rayyan Sports Club. In the other semifinal, defending champions, Korea beat Japan 2-0 to secure their place in the final.

Lu Fenghui and Yu Yang were the heroes scoring from penalty corners in the last minute and golden goal time, but credit should go to the whole Chinese team for not giving up after they trailed Pakistan for most of the match on Tuesday 12 December.

Pakistan led when captain Rehan Butt put them ahead in the 20th minute. As China pressed forward in search of a second-half equaliser, Pakistan were awarded seven penalty corners but failed to convert any of them. Then 30 seconds before the final whistle, China were awarded a penalty corner and Yu deflected the ball into the goal to send the game to extra time golden goal.

Pakistan again wasted opportunities and it proved costly when China were awarded their second penalty corner of the night. Song Yi's initial flick was saved but Lu was on hand to slot the ball home.

"I'm very excited because this is the first time the Chinese men's hockey team has entered the final of the Asian Games," said goalscorer Yu.

"In the second half, our coach told us that if we get one penalty corner we will win because in the first half the Pakistan side missed seven penalty corner chances so their mental attitude has been affected. If we can let the match go for longer, we will win."

Disappointed Pakistan captain Rehan Butt said: "It was a good game. The boys played really well, but the Chinese defence was very good. We missed a lot of chances. It was not our day. We played on an equal level to the Chinese team. We were playing attacking and China was playing defence. A few counters made the difference."

Defending champions Korea proved too powerful for Japan, whom they beat 2-0 in the day's second semifinal.

Both of Korea's goals came in the second half. Jang Jong Hyun broke the deadlock with a deflected 54th minute penalty corner. He added a second, his 15th goal of the tournament, eight minutes later again from a penalty corner.

"In the first half, I failed to score a goal when we got a penalty corner and I didn't play very well. But after I scored a goal in the second half, I was more comfortable," said Jang. "Our players were not in good condition. This cold weather made it difficult in the match so we were a little nervous."

Looking ahead to the final, Korean coach Cho Myung Jun added: "We are going for the gold medal. It will be difficult to win against China because they are a good team but I strongly believe we can win."

Disappointed Japan manager Kyoichi Nagaya commented: "We were successful in containing the Koreans in the first half but in the second half their power and technique was better as they increased the tempo of their game to win it."

The men's hockey final between China and Korea, and bronze medal playoff between Pakistan and Japan, will take place on Thursday 14 December at Al-Rayyan Hockey Field.

15th Asian Games, Doha 2006

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