Former champions Pakistan scored a last-minute goal to save themselves from an upset by China and draw their opening Asia Cup match 1-1 in Kuantan, Malaysia on Saturday.
Pakistan, who were strengthened by the return of four senior players, were saved the blushes with Akhtar Ali scoring with only 40 minutes left from the final hooter after Hu Hui Ren had put China ahead in the 61st minute in a Group B match at Kuantan Hockey Stadium.
The Chinese, who had beaten Pakistan 3-2 in the last Asia Cup in 2007 in Chennai, played a defensive game throughout and their plan to rely on the counter-attack worked.
Penalty corner specialist Sohail Abbas, Rehan Butt, Waseem Ahmed and goalkeeper Salman Akhbar were drafted into the Pakistan team with an aim to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in India by winning the Asia Cup.
Sohail failed to score off the two penalty corners that he got in the match.
Pakistan, who dominated the match but failed to find the target, will have to come up with a vastly improved performance when they take on arch-rivals India on Sunday.
In Group A matches, South Korea were held 1-1 by hosts Malaysia while Japan thrashed Bangladesh 5-0.
Ismail Abu put Malaysia ahead in the 35th minute only to see Kim Byung-hoon equalised for Korea in the 53rd minute.
In the second Group A match, Japan scored through Ryuji Furusato (7th), Kenta Tanaka (33rd), Disuke Suzuki (59th), Katsoy Nagasawa (67th) and Hiroki Sakamoto (69th).