Australia’s men’s hockey team along with New Zealand booked their place in the semi-finals of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games as they defeated India by 4-2 and England by 2-1 respectively in Pool A and Pool B with a prelim match each to spare.
India and South Africa meet on Thursday with both sides looking to join Australia in the semi-finals. While England is almost sure of a place in final four until Canada or/and Malaysia pull a major upset by defeating England and New Zealand with big margins.
In the other matches of the day, South Africa defeated Wales 5-2, while Trinidad & Tobago recorded their maiden victory against Malaysia 4-2.
A Chris Ciriello double and goals from Simon Orchard and Jake Whetton earned the Australians all three points in a match in which India provided the World Champions with their sternest test yet with a goal each from Rupinder Pal Singh and Ramandeep Singh.
Ciriello struck the first of his brace of goals after quarter of an hour with a trademark low penalty corner flick that flew up into the net off the glove of the diving Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh. Two minutes later Simon Orchard doubled the advantage, converting a cut-back pass from Trent Mitton for 2-0.
Mitton himself forced a save from the Indian goalkeeper soon after before India created their best chance of the match so far. Ramanadeep Singh found himself bearing down on Andrew Charter’s goal after plucking an Australian clearance out of the air but he miscued his shot wide of the left post.
Moments later Jake Whetton showed how it’s done as he robbed an Indian defender, who wanted dribble past 3 Australians charging on him on the 23 metre line before bursting into the circle and firing home for 3-0.
India gained hope on the stroke of half time though when Rupinder Singh unleashed an unstoppable penalty corner drag flick into the top right corner.
Australia began the second half winning two penalty corners but having failed to convert them they were punished when Ramandeep Singh swept home a penetrating pass to pull India to within one goal at 3-2. Less than 60 seconds later the two goal advantage was restored. From a penalty corner, Simon Orchard’s goal-bound shot hit the body of an Indian defender on the line and the umpire immediately awarded Australia a penalty stroke. As he did against South Africa on Monday, Ciriello stepped up to the mark and scored with his flick to the left.
Such is India’s renewed confidence under Australian coach Terry Walsh, they refused to wilt and Canberra-born Andrew Charter was the busier of the two goalkeepers in the latter stages of the match. With ten minutes remaining he did well to stretch out a leg to intercept a cross destined for Nikkin Thimmaiah in the centre before pulling off an excellent close range save with three minutes remaining, blocking before acrobatically diving backwards to sweep the ball clear.
The New Zealand Men have won 2-1 against England as Andy Hayward and Simon Child scored one each in dramatic fashion. Hayward scoring from a penalty stroke and world-class striker Simon Child securing the win with two minutes of play remaining.
A very pleased coach Colin Batch believes tonight’s game was the most significant win the team have had in the last eighteen months and says the team will be keeping focussed and preparing well for the games ahead.
“To play England – a crunch game and at this point in the tournament – and win like that, shows how much this group has grown and gives us a lot of confidence going forward. But we know it isn’t over, we have just spoken to the group about that, we have a game against Malaysia which will be very important as well,” said Batch.
The first half was scoreless, New Zealand having few opportunities and England pressing hard, making the Kiwi defenders and composed and skilful goalkeeper Devon Manchester work over time to prevent them from taking the lead. The edge-of-your-seat drama and action came in the second half, when Andy Hayward clinically scored a penalty stroke after it was ruled that Blair Hilton was pushed by an English player after a video referral was called by the Kiwis.
In what was always going to be a grudge match due to the teams’ close games over recent years, England piled on the pressure and scored when Adam Dixon smacked it to the back of the net. Child, who had created scoring opportunities earlier in the game, cemented the win in the 70th minute when he reacted quickly to a penalty corner save and with pin-point accuracy hit it high into the corner of the net.
England had multiple shots on goal in the last five minutes and Manchester batted them all away with the defensive unit working well to clear the ball.