Hockey: Black Sticks edged by Pakistan

The Black Sticks Men have been defeated 4-3 by Pakistan in their opening game of the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament. Photo / Getty Images
The Black Sticks Men have been defeated 4-3 by Pakistan in their opening game of the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament. Photo / Getty Images

Despite a valiant second half comeback the Black Sticks Men have been defeated 4-3 by Pakistan in their opening game of the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament in Malaysia on Saturday night.

The Kiwis started strongly but were punished for a flat patch midway through the first half with Pakistan scoring three unanswered goals in the space of 10 minutes.

Kane Russell finally got the Black Sticks back in the game, converting a penalty corner just minutes before the whistle to make the score 3-1 at halftime.

The Black Sticks continued their momentum after the break with Blair Tarrant (52nd minute) and Andy Hayward (56th minute) both scoring in quick succession to level the game at 3-all with 20 minutes still to play.

But just minutes later Muhammad Imran delivered his hat-trick goal to edge Pakistan back into the lead. It was a lead that New Zealand couldn't erase despite desperate efforts on attack.

Although the narrow loss will be hard to take, the young New Zealand side without several veteran players has plenty of positives to take away from the game.

Black Sticks head coach Colin Batch was pleased with the grit shown by his players to fight their way back into the game.

"It was a good performance despite the fact that we lost the match as the players showed great determination despite being 3-0 down at one stage," Batch said.

"It will be interesting against Malaysia tomorrow as we played them twice already this week but this is the one that counts, and we aim to win it this time around.

"The noise level affected the players today and I expect it to be higher tomorrow so we need to adapt."

The Black Sticks next face Malaysia in the tournament at 1:00am on Monday, and the game will be screened live on SKY Sport 3.

New Zealand 3 (Kane Russell, Andy Hayward, Blair Tarrant)
Pakistan 4 (Muhammad Imran, Adbul Haseem Khan)
Halftime: Pakistan 3-1

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