Olympic champions Australia were lucky to hold a fired up Pakistan 2-2 in a thrilling match in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament at the Bukit Jalil stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

Pakistan produced a consistent top flight attack to dominate the more fancied squad even though they went into the break tied 1-1.

While their forwards moved in cohesion, the midfield and defence stood out admirably crippling the Aussie sorties time and again.

Pakistan should have broken the ice in the opening minute itself when Tariq Aziz put Shakeel Abbasi through, but the striker narrowly missed the mark.

However, it was not a long wait for the three time champions and leaders of this tournament to forge ahead, when Abbasi deflected home a spectacular Rehan Butt cross in the third minute (1-0).

The Pakistan right-winger constantly dodged the Australia defence and entered the rival striking circle, and with the crafty Quetta-born Abbasi was their nemesis.

One sure shot goal was disallowed by umpire Javed Sheikh of India, when Abbasi deflected a Butt centre past goalkeeper Stephen Lambert. The umpire ruled the cross dangerous, much to Australia's relief.

Pakistan could have increased their lead on a few more occasions, but first Butt pushed wide followed by misses from center-forward Tariq Aziz and then Mudassar Ali Khan.

Australia came close to levelling the score thrice but Travis Brooks and then Nathan Eglington missed the target. Pakistan goalkeeper Salman Akbar also brought about a great save to foil captain Brent Livermore.

The Aussies eventually found the equaliser in the 28th minute off their second penalty-corner as Luke Doerner flicked low to Akbar's right (1-1).

Late in the first half, Pakistan earned two penalty-corners, but were unlucky to take the lead as Mohd. Imran struck the crosspiece.

Pakistan continued with the same rhythm and fluency in the second session with their forwards utilising the flanks with some superb down the line runs. Adnan Zakir, in tandem with Shabbir Husain and the overlapping midfielder Dilawar, had the Australian defence on the backfoot.

Pakistan shot into the lead in the 42nd minute when a penalty-corner was awarded after Aziz was stick checked in the circle by Aaron Hopkins. Mohd Imran this time made no mistake giving his side lead again.

The Aussies, defending champions here, fought back tooth and nail to draw level, but Pakistan's defence stood out, but only just.

The equaliser came in the 63rd minute when Livermore converted a set piece penalty-corner, thus forcing Pakistan to their first draw in the tournament.

Pakistan now have 10 points from four matches, while Australia are in the second place with eight points.

Pakistan next play arch rivals India on Wednesday.

Australia coach Barry Dancer said it was a good game and he was satisfied with the performance of his team.

'We hope to make the final and would like to retain the crown here,' Dancer said.

He added that they were building up for the Chennai Champions Trophy in December and would then focus on the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Pakistan coach Tahir Zaman said his side played a better game and the Australians were lucky to split points.

'We were the superior team and should have recorded a fourth straight win, but for some misses,' Zaman said.

India thrashed by Korea
India's chances of a podium finish virtually evaporated after they were steamrolled by Korea 4-1.

Though the current Asian Games champions dominated the proceedings, India were lucky to go into the break at 1-1 despite conceding the tournament's first penalty stroke.

In an earlier match, Olympic champions Australia rode on their luck to hold a fired up Pakistan 2-2 in a thrilling contest at the Bukit Jalil stadium in Kuala Lumpur.

After surviving the Korean onslaught in the early part of the match, India took the lead through Len Aiyappa. But the Koreans bounced back with a first-half equaliser and then struck thrice in six minutes after the break to take full points.

Korea, who earned five penalty-corners in the first 15 minutes of the match but failed to benefit from them, leveled the score through Kim Kyung Seuk. They also missed the penalty-stroke they got in the first half.

The Korean attack lacked the sharpness of their earlier outings in the tournament as many unforced errors were committed against the tentative and toothless Indians.

Korea, who were humbled handsomely by India in their last outing at the Athens Olympics, forced seven penalty-corners in the match as against two by the Indians.

The Indian attacks were slim and slender and once again their forwards had no fluency and flow. Even left winger Prabhjot Singh looked pale and jaded, while Arjun Halappa, Deepak Thakur and Sandeep Michael appeared to have left their prowess at home.

The Indians could not plug the midfield gaps leaving huge spaces for the Koreans to manoeuvre their path without much hindrance inside the 25-yard area.

However, the Koreans could not take the lead, despite their superiority as their marksmen Jong Hyun Jang, Sung Hoon Yoon and Kyung Seok Kim were off target.

India's goal came from their first penalty-corner, awarded after a rare move was orchestrated by winger Rajpal Singh.

The Chandigarh Dynamos player set up Thakur, who was obstructed by Korean skipper Hyung Bae Han. Len Aiyappa drag-flicked in style in the 20th minute.

Stunned by this surprise reversal, Korea propelled their onslaughts to draw level and won a penalty-stroke after goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan was penalised for stick checking Sung Hoon Yoon.

But to the Koreans' disappointment, Kyung Seok Kim struck the side bar.

Korea, however, got the equaliser at the stroke of half time when Kyung Seok Kim made amends for the early mistake and flicked home a rebound from their sixth penalty-corner.

After the breather, the Koreans, with recharged batteries, stole the thunder in a three-goal blitz. Twenty-three-year old penalty-corner specialist Seong Jung Kang put his side ahead with a high drag-flick in the 43rd minute.

Thereafter there was no stopping the champions of 1996 as the Indian defence caved in tamely.

Korea increased their tally further in the 47th minute through another penalty-corner conversion by Seong Jung Kang before armyman Hyo Sik You put the issue beyond doubt, netting an excellent field attempt in tandem with Eun Seong Hong two minutes later for an impressive scoreline.

After four outings India have as many points, while Korea climbed to the third slot with seven points.

Tomorrow India will clash with arch-rivals Pakistan.

Points Table
Pakistan 10pts
Australia 8pts
Korea 7pts
Malaysia 4pts
New Zealand 4pts
South Africa 1pt
India 1pt

Thursday 26 May
India 2 defeated South Africa 1
Australia 3 defeated Malaysia 1
Pakistan 2 defeated New Zealand 1

Friday 27 May
Australia 3 drew Korea 3
New Zealand 2 drew India 2
Malaysia 1 drew South Africa 1

Saturday 28 May
Pakistan 3 defeated Korea 2

Sunday 29 May
Malaysia 4 defeated India 1
Pakistan 2 defeated South Africa 0
Australia 2 defeated New Zealand 1

Monday 30 May
Korea 4 defeated Malaysia 0
New Zealand 2 defeated South Africa 0

Tuesday 31 May
Pakistan 2 drew Australia 2
Korea 4 defeated India 1

Wednesday’s Matches
Australia v South Africa, 1.35pm
New Zealand v Malaysia, 3.35pm
India v Pakistan, 5.35pm

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