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China Reach 1st Ever Men's Hockey Final
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China staged an exciting comeback by scoring two late goals from penalty corner to oust Pakistan, reaching their first ever Asian Games hockey final on Tuesday.

Lu Fenghui and Yu Yang were the heroes of the night, but credit should be given to the whole Chinese team for not giving up after they were behind Pakistan for the whole game.

Pakistan scored the early goal when captain Buut Rehan had two chances to put Pakistan in the lead in the 15th minute, but his shots were well saved by keeper Su Rifeng. However, Rehan held on to score off a pass from Abbasi Shakeel in the 20th minute to put Pakistan in the lead.

In the second half, China pressed forward in search for the equalizer, causing gaps in their defence, and Pakistan were quick to exploit it.

Pakistan were awarded seven penalty corners and had a few shorts on goal but they failed to convert them.

Su played an important role as he made a few outstanding saves to keep China in the game. Ahmad Nasir had to make a few crucial saves in the final minutes to deny China their equalizer.

China's chance of revival came 30 seconds before the final whistle. China were awarded a penalty corner and Yu deflected the ball into the goal to send the game to extra time for golden goal.

Pakistan again wasted an opportunity in the first half of extratime when they failed to convert a penalty corner.

It proved costly for Pakistan as China were awarded their second penalty corner of the night. Song Yi's initial flick was saved by Nasir but Lu was on hand to slot the ball home and gave China their first ever Asian Games hockey final since the game was introduced in 1958.

"The better physical condition of the Chinese players changed the game in five minutes," said China's head coach Kim Sang Ryul. "We were waiting for chances. Pakistan have a lot of experience and we were waiting for the chances to come. We were analyzing them and I knew that our players could catch chances.

"I'm really happy. Modern hockey is different and every country is into it. Our aim is to find different tactics to set us apart. It's the first time that China will qualify for the Olympic Games and our aim is to do well in the Beijing Olympics.

"There are a lot of difference between South Korean and Chinese hockey. Our style of play is we analyze the opponent and then try to score goals. I'm definitely sure that these abilities helped us score."

Pakistan team manager Shahnaz Sheikh gave his congratulations to the Chinese team.

"My congratulations to China. We now have to look forward to our next game as our priority now is to qualify for the 2008 Olympics. It is a do-or-die situation for us," said Sheikh.

"This is history as China have entered the final for the first time, and both Pakistan and India are out of the final. I thought that things were changing only at the world level, but it is happening in Asia too, as we didn't qualify for the final at the 2002 Busan Asiad."

China will play the final against South Korea, which defeated Japan 2-0 in the other semi-final.

Both China and South Korea have qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
(Xinhua News Agency December 13, 2006)

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