LAHORE      -   A last-second goal from Netherland’s Mink van der Weerden deprived Pakistan from victory as both teams played a 4-4 draw in the first-leg of their FIH Olympic Qualifier on Saturday at Amstelveen in Holland.

Former Olympic champion Pakistan put on a stunning display against higher-ranked Netherlands in a seesawing battle. Pakistan’s prowess from penalty corner situations in the match had been frightening as they converted two goals from direct hit and two from beautiful regulation routines and did not miss any opportunity after they won a penalty corner.

The Green Shirts have done themselves proud but will need to do it all again today (Saturday) as well in what is now a ‘winner takes all’ contest.

World no 3 Netherlands came into the tie as the favourite, but Pakistan, which has been struggling on and off the field due to dire financial situation, took the lead in the 5th minute on a penalty corner. A fizzing low penalty corner effort from Mubashar Ali rattles the Dutch back-board, giving the visitors the early advantage against the form book.

First quarter ended with Pakistan leading 1-0 and enjoyed some decent possession at the start of the second period, playing with confidence. However, the Dutch looked ever-threatening on the counter-attack and a soon were rewarded with a penalty stroke after Pakistan goalkeeper Ali Amjad fouled Terrance Pieters. Mink van der Weerden made no mistake I slotting home the penalty stroke in the 20th minute to make the things level.

The Netherlands turned the score on its head thanks to two goals in little more than a minute, with Bjorn Kellerman powering into the circle from the left and smashing a stunning backhand effort across the face of goal and just inside the right post in the 21st minute.

But Pakistan upped the tempo of their game and went all cylinders to get another penalty corner in 25th minute. Pakistan successfully appealed to the video umpire for a penalty corner as Netherlands goalkeeper Maurits Visser kicked the ball into the body of Moin Shakeel. The penalty corner was charged down by the body of Sander Baart, who left the field injured as another Pakistan penalty corner was awarded. Pakistan produced a slick penalty corner routine that saw Ghazanfar Ali diving in at the right post to deflect home in the 25th minute as the teams went into the half-time tied 2-2.

The Netherlands made an assured start to the third quarter, and Pakistan were struggling to get the ball out of their own half. In 33rd minute, Thierry Brinkman smashed a pass into the circle from the right which was begging to be forced into the goal, but Mirco Pruijser and Terrance Pieters both failed to get the decisive touch.

Pakistan went on a counter-attack and won a penalty corner via the foot of Mink van der Weerden very next minute and Pakistan were back in front from another glorious penalty corner routine. The low drag-flick from the top of the circle was touched home brilliantly at the left post by Green Shirts captain Muhammad Rizwan.

The third quarter ended with Pakistan leading 3-2 and kept their lead until 52nd minute. The Dutch were level yet again, with Robbert Kemperman on hand to fire into an empty net from close range, finishing off a fine interchange of passes between Seve van Ass and Bjorn Kellerman.

Pakistan players continued attacking the Dutch goal and in 57th minute and Umar Bhutta showed quick hands to skip into the Netherlands’ circle and won a penalty corner. Oranje goalkeeper Maurits Visser makes a fine save, however, Pakistan were awarded another penalty corner. Pakistan scored their fourth penalty corner of the game to take a 4-3 lead going into the final few minutes of the contest. Mubashar Ali netted his second goal of the match with a superb drag-flick which crashes against the backboard in the 58th minute.

However, Pakistan failed to sustain their lead for the last two minutes as the Dutch went all out for an equaliser. The Netherlands won a penalty corner in 6oth and the last minute and rattled the frame of the goal with a drag-flick but failed to score and instead won another penalty corner in the dying moments.

Mink van der Weerden arrowed his penalty corner drag-flick inside the left post. It was a brilliant finish from Van der Weerden, and it proved to be the last action of the game.

Pakistan’s Rashid Mehmood  said: “I think it was a great game for the crowd and for both teams. It was a great performance from our side. The team played very proudly and bravely. They are world number 3, and we plated very well in this first game. Unfortanately we didn’t get the three points, which were very important, but the way we played, I’m happy with the performance of the boys.”