South Africa twice led but were pulled by by the Pakistani’s on both occasions as both teams settled for a draw in the opening game of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
South Africa and Pakistan took each other in their opening Commonwealth Games encounter in Birmingham this morning. Its been just over a year since South Africa stunned the world with a massive victory against Germany at the Tokyo Olympics and they were looking to bring that same resilience to a tournament that was originally scheduled to take place in South Africa.
The South Africans were awarded the first penalty corners of the game when they received two back to back, but the first runners from Pakistan were able to deny Matt Guise-Brown and it remained goalless. South Africa created the next best opportunity through Ryan Julius but the shot was well saved. Pakistan then had their goalkeeper yellow carded for intercepting outside the circle and the Africans had another penalty corner. This time Connor Beauchamp was the option and the execution was perfect to give the South Africans the lead! It was an entertaining opening quarter that came to its conclusion with the South Africans 1-0 up.
Early in the second quarter South Africa’s pace attack was continuing to trouble the Asians as Bili Ntuli drove into the circle but a last ditch interception denied the Africans. Pakistan were weathering the storm effectively while the yellow card ran down, while still trying to create something themselves.
South Africa had a fortunate opportunity when a penalty corner was brought down onto the foot but the shot was superbly saved by the stand in keeper. The yellow card for Pakistan expired and almost immediately were awarded their first penalty corner of the game and they levelled superbly through Rizwaan Ali.
South Africa immediately created a circle entry but were lacking the cutting edge to maximise the opportunities, much to their frustration. South Africa created another quick counter attack that found Bili Ntuli in space and the vice captain fired it inches wide. And that was the end of the first half of action. South Africa the dominant team with more shots, circle entries and penalty corners but importantly only one goal a piece so far.
Early in the second half South Africa earned their first penalty corner of the half through a poor tackle, but the first wave was quick enough to give a second award. The shot was saved on the line and the follow up shot was saved superbly to deny South Africa.
Both teams were a little wasteful in possession and not making the most of their possession in the third quarter. The game was crying out for a moment of quality from either side. Pakistan won their second penalty corner of the match from a Mustapha Cassiem tackle but the South Africans kept it at bay and it remained even. Pakistan had the nearest opportunity with seconds left on the clock in the quarter but a hardly remarkable quarter finished without a goal.
The two sides both appeared like they were waiting for a big moment. South Africa thought they had the chance as Ntuli was sent through from Dayaan Cassiem but the ball was just to far away from the South Africans striker to make the chance count.
Siya Nolutshungu was called on to make a big save as the Pakistanis sensed a great opportunity to steal the points and he answered the call superbly. South Africa then won a penalty corner after quick work from Taine Paton and Ntuli to set up another opportunity. An absolute rocket penalty corner from Guise-Brown struck the face mask of the defender on the line and a penalty stroke was awarded for the South Africans. Guise-Brown took the stroke and finished superbly to the a 2-1 lead with 6 minutes remaining on the clock.
Pakistan were wrongly awarded a penalty stroke when Mustapha Cassiem made a superb goal line save and fortunately the review was in hand to overturn the decision. However Pakistan were still awarded the penalty corner. Siya Nolutshungu pulled off a superb save to deny Ali and South Africa held on to the narrow lead with 5 minutes remaining.
Pakistan were dominating the territory and possession as they looked for an equaliser with South Africa defending with tremendous heart and spirit to try and wind down the clock. The counter attack danger for the South Africans was still present as Dayaan Cassiem created an opportunity but Pakistan kept it out. 2 minutes remained.
Pakistan won a penalty corner with 40 seconds remaining on the clock when the ball struck Beauchamp on the foot. And with 20 seconds left they put the ball in the back of the net to pull level and devastate South Africa.