Pool competition concluded today in Hockey World League Semi Final at Johor Bahru, Malaysia, with Argentina and Pakistan winning their respective matches to finish as pool toppers and to set up quarter finals against South Africa and Korea respectively. While England defeated Malaysia to finish 2nd in Pool B and will face Japan in quarter finals, while hosts Malaysia are up against London Olympics Gold Medalists Germany in the knock-out stage, which will be played on 4th July after a rest day tomorrow (Pool points table, results and full schedule here).
Victory for England over Malaysia lines up quarter-final against Japan
Highlights of England vs Malaysia at World League 3 in Johor Bahru
In England’s final pool match of the week they took on hosts Malaysia who came into the game Pool B leaders. The game was played at a fierce tempo as both sides committed to taking the three points and it was England who came out on top with goals from Richard Smith and Barry Middleton either side of half time. Malaysia did pull a goal back just before the break, but Middleton’s second half strike secured England the victory and a top two finish in their pool.
The other Pool B game saw Pakistan beat South Africa 6-2 which means that England finish second in their group and will play Japan in the quarter final on Thursday at 10:00 (UK time).
Speaking after the game, goal scorer Richard Smith said, “We’re absolutely delighted with today’s result. After two hard earned draws against South Africa and Pakistan it was great to secure the win and take the three points. We were really up for today’s game and knew that a win was essential to put us in a good position in the pool. We took a high intensity into the game from the beginning and that set a good tone for the 70 minutes. It’s a great atmosphere here with the Malaysian fans out in force to support their team.”
After battling to draws against South Africa and Pakistan over the weekend England knew that a win would ensure that they avoid playing Argentina or Germany from Pool A in the quarter-finals. Both teams started brightly with end to end play; Malaysia had the first clear chance on goal in the opening five minutes, but Beeston’s Michael Hoare was strong in defensive to stifle the attack.
England won their first penalty corner on 21 minutes after a Malaysian foot in the circle. Richard Smith’s initial shot was saved by Kumar Subramiam, but the rebound fell to Beeston’s Harry Martin who battled with the Malaysian defence and the loose ball fell to Smith who pushed the ball home to make it 1-0 and score his second goal of the tournament.
It didn’t take long for Malaysia to equalise. Mark Gleghorne was penalised for a late tackle and the resulting penalty corner was hit home by Abdul Jalil, after Beeston’s George Pinner had reacted well to save the first effort.
Despite England dominating the circle play with eight penetrations to Malaysia’s two the visitors couldn’t convert their chances and the score remained 1-1 as the teams headed in for the break.
The end to end play continued in the second half as the match was played at a grueling pace. England had the best of the early chances with Ben Arnold and Ashley Jackson both diving for a cross but Jackson couldn’t quite connect with the ball and his effort went wide.
Stalemate ensued as both sides had chances but were unable to convert. The breakthrough came with 13 minutes to go. Dan Fox made a driving run into the circle and found Adam Dixon whose shot was saved by Subramiam, but the rebound fell to Holcombe’s Barry Middleton who made no mistakes with a close range effort lifted into Malaysia’s goal. The closing stages were tense as Malaysia pushed forward, but England looked solid in defense and composed in their attacks as they held on to their 2-1 lead to take the three points.
Speaking after the game head coach Bobby Crutchley said, “This was another important progressive step for the group. We’re continuing to develop the mental side of our game and I thought we coped extremely well with the pressure from Malaysia and their home support here. We now look forward to a quarter final against Japan on Thursday. If we continue to improve as we have been doing, we’ll have a great chance of World Cup qualification.”