Great Britain have their kept their hopes of winning the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup alive with a much improved performance against the tournament’s top side, New Zealand.
First half goals from East Grinstead’s Ashley Jackson and Surbiton’s Matt Daly gave Great Britain a well deserved 2-1 victory over the Black Sticks, who had been unbeaten in their first three games. Kiwi penalty corner specialist Andrew Hayward did pull a goal back in the second half, but it wasn’t enough as Great Britain’s defence stood strong and they managed to hold onto their goal advantage to take all three points.
Speaking after the game Great Britain’s Head Coach, Jason Lee was delighted with his side’s performance, “It was a much improved performance following the Argentina game where I had been very disappointed. I thought the players showed a lot of spirit and we played some good tactics to win the game.”
Great Britain started brightly on another humid evening in Malaysia, Wimbledon’s Ben Hawes with an early chance which just sneaked over the crossbar following some good one-two play with Reading’s Nick Catlin. Moments later Surbiton’s Rob Moore drove a ball across the goal, but there was no-one near to finish and it was an easy save in the end for the Black Sticks goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex.
New Zealand did not seem to be able to find their rhythm in the opening minutes and Great Britain enjoyed most of the possession early on. Despite half chances for Reading’s Jonty Clarke and Daly it took Great Britain 17 minutes to break through. Hawes and Clarke were again involved in the action with some great build up play. Clarke found East Grinstead’s Ashley Jackson who slotted home an easy finish past Pontifex for his fourth goal of the tournament and Great Britain’s first of the game.
With eight minutes to go Surbiton’s Richard Alexander won the ball from a Kiwi attack and a flowing move from Great Britain ended in Daly’s first goal since coming back from a long term knee injury which had seen him sidelined since the end of 2011. Daly picked the ball up just outside the circle and drove past one defender before drawing the keeper and deftly pulling the ball back to slot it home into the right hand corner to make it 2-0.
New Zealand created chances in the final 10 minutes and were awarded the only penalty corner of the half, but Great Britain defended well and went in with a two goal advantage.
With rainclouds gathering in Malaysia a storm was looming as the players came out for the second half. The final 35 minutes was a far more even affair with chances for both sides as the game opened up.
Old Loughtonians’ Harry Martin found himself in the circle three times early on in the half but some good defending made his attempts relatively unthreatening. New Zealand however did start to build up their play and although they never looked particularly dangerous in open play they earned themselves four penalty corners during the half.
With 22 minutes to go Black Sticks penalty corner specialist, Andrew Hayward, lined up to drive a clinical flick past Cannock’s James Fair in goal to pull a goal back and make for an interesting final quarter.
Great Britain deserved credit as they continued to look calm and composed even as New Zealand pressed forward, waiting patiently to build up their attacks. Matt Daly and Reading’s Iain Mackay both had chances that they failed to connect with. With five minutes to go Great Britain had two penalty corners which saw Loughborough Students’ Richard Smith’s shot saved by Pontifex and then Jackson, looking for a second, failed to connect with the ball.
The final few minutes saw exciting end to end play and several good attacks from Great Britain, Clarke and Jackson again in the thick of it. Despite several balls going straight across the goal there were no Great Britain players in range to finish and the score remained 2-1.
Lee was very happy with his team’s overall performance, “I thought Matt Day played very well considering this is only his third game back from a long term injury. He scored a very good individual goal and it is encouraging to see him getting into the right positions.”
The result means that Great Britain have moved into third place in the tournament standings. The next match is against Korea at 09:05 BST tomorrow.
British sports fans have another opportunity to cheer on the GB next week as Great Britain’s women’s team hosts the Investec London Cup in Chiswick from 5-10 June. Tickets are still available by visiting www.greatbritainhockey.co.uk/
GREAT BRITAIN 2-1 (HT: 2-0) NEW ZEALAND
Great Britain Goal Scorers: Ashley Jackson (FG) 17, Matt Daly (FG) 27
New Zealand Goal Scorers: Andrew Hayward (PC) 62
Great Britain Hockey Media Release