Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Brits survive dramatic finale

Spain vs Great Britain: 1-1 (half-time: 0-1)

Great Britain became the fourth men’s semi-finalist at the expense of Spain in one of the most dramatic manners possible, overcoming a heart-stopping final minute of play. Needing only a draw to progress, the hosts were locked at 1-1 when Spain were twice awarded penalty corners only from umpire conferrals saw the decisions rightly over-turned, allowing GB to hold on for the result.
It left Spain distraught after a sterling fightback after Britain had held the upper hand for much of the first 55 minutes, taking the lead from Ashley Jackson’s fifth goal of the competition. But when Pau Quemada pulled his side level 15 minutes from time, it set up a grandstand finish that set the home hearts racing.
Jackson’s 33rd minute penalty corner gave Great Britain the first half ascendancy when Ramon Alegre conceded a soft penalty corner. Jackson drove low for his fifth goal of the tournament, taking a small nick en route to the backboard. Otherwise, it was an intense, physical tussle with both Pau Quemada and Edi Tubau green carded. It made for a tight, tentative affair but there was enough guile to carve out decent opportunities.
The first fell to Jackson off the back of James Tindall’s drag-flick but the British talisman’s snap-shot clattered only the outside of the goal. In response, Quemada and Tubau were putting in a huge stint while an innovative penalty corner saw James Fair in trouble, saved only by Iain Lewers diving clearance. Tindall and Martin tested Francisco Cortes a couple more times but Jackson’s drive remained the only difference between the sides at the break.
Spain, though, transformed from a placid half-press to a much higher press and almost instantly drew dividends when Tubau robbed Richard Smith’s loose pass. Fair blocked well, the first of a series of significant saves in the half. GB could have been out of sight in the 53rd minute from a manic third penalty corner, Iain Mackay bunting the ball off the crossbar while Barry Middleton and Jackson also had digs.
Within a minute, the momentum had shifted as Quemada found a low and true route past Fair and, from there, their need for the three points was accompanied by an all-out surge, winning a couple of corners before the controversial final minute. The stoppages dragged it out but GB held on and are now looking forward to a semi-final date with the Netherlands while Spain are destined for the fifth place play-off.
On a day of milestones, David Alegre played his 200th cap, Matt Daly his 150th; Iain Mackay in his 100th game and Iain Lewers lined out for GB for a 50th time.
(Stephen Findlater)

Australia vs. Pakistan: 7-0 (half-time: 4-0)

Anything could still happen in Pool A, with four teams in contention for a semi-final spot (Australia, Great Britain, Pakistan and Spain) depending on the results on this last day of pool play. But it took less than 5 minutes for Australia to put the contest out of doubt.
Australia were prompt to stake their claim on the match, earning a penalty-corner within 4 minutes of play. Liam De Young picked up the rebound from the goalkeeper after the initial shot by Christopher Ciriello and managed to slip the bouncing ball in goal in a narrow angle. Less than a minute later, Mark Knowles added an unstoppable penalty-stroke under the crossbar and Pakistan were suddenly looking into a two-goal deficit with the match hardly started.
Imran Shah was kept busy in the Pakistani goal, while it took a while for Nathan Burgers to see any action at the other end. Australia were pressuring the Pakistani midfield very high on the pitch, preventing their attempts to develop any attack and reducing them to try and use tentative high balls.
Christopher Ciriello added a goal on another penalty-corner late in the period, then a forth one after a poor clearance by the Pakistani defense, and the Australians went into the half-time break with a comfortable 4-goal lead while the Pakistani team seemed at a loss to find a solution to threaten the Australian circle.
The same pattern prevailed in second period, with Australia having immediately another chance on penalty-corner. Ciriello’s flick was this time way too high but it did not take long for Russell Ford to score the 5th Australian goal with a spectacular shot high in the opposite corner at the end of a long run. Jamie Dwyer added a 6th goal, Glenn Turner a last one, and there was not much that Pakistan could do to prevent the Kookaburas from cruising to spectacular 7-0 victory, establishing a +18 goal difference that pretty much insured them top spot in Pool A, as Great Britain would now have to score 13 goals against Spain to overtake them.
(Yan Huckendubler)

Argentina vs. South Africa: 6-3 (half-time: 2-2)

Argentina came back from a 2-goal deficit to severely punish South Africa (6-3) and leave them bottom of the group.
With both teams having three losses and a draw, they were out of contention for the semi-finals and playing to avoid bottom place. The contest was however heated from the start, with a green card to a South African player within a couple minutes of play.
South Africa drew first blood on a spectacular penalty-corner under the crossbar by Justin Reid-Ross, certainly one of the best corner flickers in this competition. They doubled their tally a few seconds later by Lloyd Norris-Jones from the field and Argentina were already looking at a steep uphill battle.
Facundo Callioni had a golden opportunity after a splendid pass from Agustin Mazzilli found him alone in the circle, but Erasmus Pieterse stood tall in the South African goal and thwarted his effort. Soon after Lucas Rossi was unlucky to hit the post after a decisive circle penetration, then Callioni failed again to beat Pieterse from close range before Gonzalo Peillat reduced the score on a penalty-corner in the 24th minute.
Both teams had other chances on penalty-corners before Lucas Rossi managed to catapult the ball in the roof of the net from a goal mouth scramble, levelling the score for Argentina. The score was tied at half-time (2-2), but Argentina had a better momentum after coming back in the match after their catastrophic start and Gonzalo Peillat added another penalty-corner, his second of the day, early in second period to give the lead to the South Americans in this lively contest.
Facundo Callioni deflected in goal a superb cross from Lucas Vila who had outrun the South African defense, then did it again soon after on a similar cross, this time from Agustin Mazzilli, and Argentina were suddenly in a very comfortable position with a 3-goal lead. The crowd were entertained by a flurry of goal in the final minutes. First Jonathan Robinson pulled back a goal for South Africa, then Gonzalo Peillat promptly re-established the 3-goal lead with his third penalty-corner goal of the match, a strong feat for the 19 year old playing in his first major competition.
With the win, Argentina finished 5th in pool A and will for 9th-10th on Thursday, while South Africa will play for 11th-12th on Saturday.
(Yan Huckendubler)