| Updated at: 2046 PST, Thursday, November 18, 2010|
GUANGZHOU: Veteran Sohail Abbas scored twice as Pakistan took a giant step towards the semi-finals of the Asian Games men's field hockey with a rousing 8-2 win over Japan on Thursday.
The 35-year-old penalty corner exponent rolled back the years after Japan -- regarded along with India as Pakistan's toughest opponents in group B -- took the lead in the third minute.
Kenji Kitazato's early goal was equalised the very next minute by Fareed Ahmed before Sohail converted his first goal in the 20th minute and Muhammad Rizwan made it 3-1 before half-time.
Pakistan pumped in five goals in relentless raids on the Japanese defence in the second-half that began with a second goal from Sohail in the 51st minute.
Muhammad Imran netted a penalty stroke, while Muhammad Waqas, Shakeel Abbasi and Muhammad Zubair completed the emphatic win ahead of Saturday's crucial game against India.
Pakistan are hoping to bounce back in Guangzhou after a lean year in which they finished last at the World Cup and an embarrassing sixth at the Commonwealth Games.
The Pakistanis, who won the last of their seven Asian Games gold medals in Beijing in 1990, have not bagged a major title since the World Cup triumph in Sydney in 1994.
"This was an important win because we knew that beating Japan was important if we were to make the semi-finals," said Pakistan's star striker Rehan Butt.
"The margin of victory suggests we were in control of the game despite the early goal by Japan. We have settled down well."
Pakistan had thrashed Hong Hong 12-0 in their first match.
Defending champions South Korea, seeking a third successive Asian Games title, escaped with a 2-2 draw against Malaysia in group A.
Seo Jong-Ho scored five minutes before the final whistle to help the Koreans share points after Malaysia made it 2-1 in the 48th minute through Hafifihafiz Hanafi.
Both teams were locked 1-1 at half-time, Azlan Misron equalising for Malaysia after Hyun Hye-Sung had put South Korea ahead in the eighth minute.
Seo attributed the hard-earned draw to the lack of experience in the South Korean side.
"Many of my team-mates are young and new to the Asian Games," said Seo. "Of course we should have won this game, but now we must beat China."
China have won both their matches so far, while South Korea and Malaysia have one win and a draw from two games.
The top two teams from either group will advance to the semi-finals.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh and Oman recovered from heavy defeats in their first two matches to finally record wins.
Bangladesh rode on four goals from Mamaunar Chayan to outplay Hong Kong 7-3 in group B, while Oman beat Singapore 2-1 in group A.