Nic Woods converted two penalty corners to hand defending champion New Zealand a 5-3 victory over Pakistan in the round-robin league of the 25th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament, here today.

Twin strikes by Woods in the space of three minutes put New Zealand on winning course after the teams were level 2-2 at half-time.

Back to winning habit after being held to draws by Malaysia and Canada in its initial two outings, New Zealand took its points tally to five, while Pakistan has three points from two matches. Pakistan had beaten Canada 3-1 in its opening fixture.

Pakistan opened the account in the eighth minute through Muhammad Arslan Qadir, who flicked in Ajaz Ahmed’s cross just wide of goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex. Pakistan could have increased the lead two minutes later from its first penlty corner when the shot deflected off the goalkeeper’s pads to the goalpost and back into play. The Black Sticks defenders did not have a clue about the ball’s direction until it was cleared in a melee.

New Zealand drew parity in the 12th minute when George Muir’s diagonal cross was deflected into the boards by Stephen Jenness.

Captain Simon Child put the Black Sticks ahead for the first time in the 19th minute when his reverse shot from top of the circle went through Pakistan goalkeeper Imran Butt’s pads.

Pakistan then forced seven penalty corners in the space of three minutes, four of them in a succession before equalising in the 21st minute. Muhammad Irfan Jr found the target in a scrimmage following a penalty corner shot.

New Zealand left Pakistan way behind with three goals in a four minute burst. Two strikes by Woods (39th and 42nd minutes) and one by Kane Russell (43rd) on penalty corners stunned Pakistan.

Pakistan tried to stage a comeback and exerted a lot of pressure on New Zealand, but could only reduce the margin by a goal. Qadir scored his second goal for Pakistan in the 52nd minute before New Zealand closed the gaps in its defence.

Canada posts first victory

Earlier, fast-improving Canada posted its first victory in three outings by prevailing 3-1 over Japan.

After a goalless first half, Canada rode on two open field goals in successive minutes to take a 2-0 lead. Mark Pearson (34th minute) and Garbiel Ho-Garcia (35th) penetrated the Japanese circle to shoot on target before Japan pulled one back in the 42nd through captain Hiroki Sakamoto through a penalty corner.

Canada sealed the fate of the contest with a 45th minute penalty corner strike by captain Scott Tupper. The victory took Canada’s points tally to four from three outings. It had picked up the first point from a 1-1 draw against New Zealand on Thursday.

Japan has suffered defeats in all their three outings.