Pakistan prevail in dust bowl

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The Independent Online
reports from Atlanta

The six-nation pre-Olympic tournament finally got underway at the Clark Atlanta stadium yesterday on the practice pitch, which was surrounded by low straw bales, less than a yard away from the sidelines, to protect the players from ground beyond that resembled Brighton's stony beach. Only a handful of spectators turned up - hardly surprising given the lack of facilities.

The decision to go ahead on the far from adequate surface was taken only hours before the start, the teams having lodged strong protests before relenting. The only good news was the hot, sunny weather, which allowed delayed work in laying the Olympic pitch to go ahead.

The opening game, in which Pakistan beat Argentina 4-1, was as low key as the American attitude to this tournament. As clouds of dust wafted across the pitch from the construction site, it was some 10 minutes before the players mustered a shot at goal, Bajwa Asif bringing the first of a series of fine blocking saves from Argentina's goalkeeper, Pablo Moreira.

Pakistan turned on a little of their wizardry with Zaman Tahir leading a series of raids, which resulted in a number of penalty corners but no breach in Moreira's defence.

Pakistan took advantage of the temporary suspension of Carlos Retegui to take the lead two minutes into the second half. A free-hit from the left by Asif Khan was turned in by Tahir.

As Argentina strove for a goal, they were caught twice on the break with centre-forward Ashraf Kamran combining with Mohammad Shahbaz to score both goals. Shahbaz added the fourth, before Santiago Capuro followed up at a 54th-minute penalty corner to score for Argentina.

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