Ireland recovered from a slow start to make it two wins from two in the FIH Men's Hockey Nations Cup in South Africa.
Playing their second game in as many days after beating France yesterday, Mark Tumity's men looked sluggish in the early stages before falling behind in the second quarter.
But they recovered in the heat of Potchefstroom, scoring the two goals they needed edge closer to a place in the semi-finals at the weekend.
Pakistan went in front in the first minute of the second quarter and it was the wake-up call Ireland needed as they hit back almost immediately through Conor Empey. Ireland captain Sean Murray was the catalyst for the goal; he took a quick free and found Jeremy Duncan in the circle who passed first time to Empey who had the final touch.
Both teams looked tired as the first half went on, the heat and heavy legs starting to tell with mistraps and unforced errors. Pakistan looked dangerous in attack as Ireland defended a couple of penalty corners, the first adjudged too high and the second shot wide. Ireland’s forwards were making the right runs but the final connection just wasn’t there as the half drew to a close with the scores level.
Ireland came out with renewed impetus in the second half with several chances in the first few minutes, including, arguably, the play of the game. Kyle Marshall found Murray who passed first time to Empey in the circle, who squared immediately for player of the match Benjamin Walker. The speed of the move was what unlocked the Pakistan defence and gave Ireland the lead. Pakistan continued to threaten, their one-on-one skills particularly impressive when in the final third of the pitch.
The third quarter was end to end as both teams drew saves from their opposition goalkeepers. James Milliken was between the posts for the men in green, as Tumilty opted to rotate his keepers. Ireland retained their narrow lead going into the final quarter, and they showed their experience in the final stages, winning two more penalty corners, the second of which Shane O’Donoghue converted when he flicked home past the player on the right post to give Ireland some breathing room.
Not content to play the game out, Ireland continued to push and had chances to widen the gap but were unable to find the mark. Pakistan won a corner late on and a goal could have made the finishing stages interesting by reducing their deficit, but the shot went wide and Ireland closed out the match to win comfortably by three goals to one.
"We responded well to going one goal behind, we equalised quite quickly," Walker said afterwards.
"But there are maybe still some things we need to work on. We obviously have a rest day and we know we probably need a result on Thursday to guarantee progression to the semi-final so we are focused on that now," he said.
Ireland’s final group game is on Thursday at 1 PM when they face hosts South Africa.