World champions Australia [ Images ] were made to sweat before beating Pakistan 1-0 and sealing a place in the semi-finals of the men's hockey tournament at the Commonwealth Games [ Images ] on Saturday.
Unlike their other Pool A teams, the Kookaburras found Pakistan a tough nut to crack, courtesy an exemplary display from the Pakistan backline, led by captain Zeeshan Ashraf.
The Pakistani defenders were ably supported by an agile custodian Imran Shah, who was outstanding under the bar.
The Pakistani defence and custodian Shah worked in unison to deny the mighty Australians on numerous occasions at the Major Dhyan Chand National stadium.
Pakistan displayed a much-improved performance in the match but failed to avenge their 1-2 World Cup loss to Australia because of poor finishing and brilliant goalkeeping by Nathan Burgers under the Australian goal.
Burgers continued his impressive showing in the tournament and saved his side on more than one occasion, the first of which came in the 17th minute when he brilliantly denied Shafqat Rasool after he was set up by a great run from Shakeel Abbasi down wide right.
Soon after that particular move, custodian Shah saved Pakistan with his agility and smart reflexes.
However, it was Australia who got what turned out to be the match-winner in the 33rd minute when Chris Ciriello converted their second penalty-corner with a fierce flick to the right of Shah.
At the stroke of the breather, an alert Australian goalkeeper Burgers denied Pakistan the equaliser when he palmed away fierce reverse hit from Rehan Butt, taken from the top of the circle.
The second half turned out to be a tale of missed opportunities as both the teams mounted innumerable attacks at each other's goal but failed to utilize a single one, which eventually proved costly for Pakistan.
The Jamie Dwyer-led Australian forwardline was off-colour, as barring the match-winner, they failed to break the stubborn Pakistani defence.
The Australians also wore a sorry look in penalty-corners as they converted only one out of the five they earned in the entire 70 minutes.
In the dying moments of the match, Pakistan got a golden opportunity to draw parity when they were awarded their second penalty-corner of the match but wasted it, Muhammad Imran's flick going high over the bar.
With an all-win record in the competition, the defending champions next take on Malaysia in an inconsequential last pool match on Sunday.
Pakistan, on the other hand, take on arch-rivals India [ Images ] in a must-win match. Both teams are eyeing an outright victory that will give them a place in the last four stage.