Hockey Olympic Qualifiers: Pakistan and Netherlands play out thrilling 4-4 draw

World no 17 Pakistan dominated in parts but settled for a 4-4 draw against 2018 World Cup finalist Netherlands in the first-leg of Olympic Qualifiers on Saturday.

Pakistan's Tasawar Abbas and Netherlands' Valentin Verga battle for the ball during the FIH Olympic Qualifiers first-leg at Amsterdam.   -  FIH Facebook

Former Olympic champion Pakistan men's hockey team put on a stunning display against higher-ranked Netherlands in a seesawing 4-4 draw in the first-leg of the FIH Olympic Qualifiers at Amstelveen on Saturday.

World no 3 Netherlands came into the tie as the favorite, but Pakistan, which has been struggling on and off the field due to a financial crisis, took the lead in the 5th minute through a dragflick from Mubashar Ali.

However, the Dutch pulled things level before half-time when Mink van der Weerden slotted home a penalty stroke in the 20th minute. Bjorn Kellerman put the host in the lead in the next minute with a field goal, but Ali Ghazanfar converted a penalty corner for Pakistan in the 25th minute as the teams went into the half-time tied 2-2.

Pakistan stepped on the gas in the second half and in the 38th minute, skipper Muhammed Rizwan scored from a penalty corner to give Pakistan the lead for the second time. The Dutch pushed for an equaliser but the Green Shirts held on to their slender lead in the third quarter.

 

Netherlands found success in the 52nd minute when Robbert Kemperman slotted home a field goal to make it 3-3. The lead did not last long as dragflicker Mubashar Ali scored from a corner in the 58th minute to restore Pakistan's lead. However, the host held its nerve as Mink van der Weerden found the net with a dragflick in the final seconds of the match to secure a 4-4 draw.

READ | Netherlands thrashes Pakistan 6-1 in second-leg to seal Olympic berth

With both the team level on goals, it will be interesting to see how the teams approach the second-leg on Sunday. Three-time Olympic champion Pakistan will seek redemption after it failed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics for the time in its history.

In the women's qualifiers, Australia eased to an Olympic qualification with a 9-2 aggregate against world no 19 Russia. World no 10 China was the second team on Saturday to book an Olympic berth as it erased 0-2 deficit from the first leg and then beat Belgium 2-1 in the shootout.