A stunning attacking display from Bobby Crutchley’s Great Britain team blew India away as five different players helped themselves to goals in a 5-1 win. The win gave GB third place in the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final 2015 in Antwerp, Belgium and confirmed a place in both the World League Final and at the Rio Olympics.
Alastair Brogdon, Chris Griffiths, Ashley Jackson, Adam Dixon and Barry Middleton were on the score sheet as Great Britain ran riot in Belgium. Middleton’s goal was particularly fitting, coming as it did on his 350th international appearance.
It was India who had the game’s first clear opening. Akashdeep Singh broke free down the left leaving defenders in his wake but as he cut in towards goal the giant frame of goalkeeper George Pinner slammed the door shut with a fine block at the near post.
Great Britain who took the lead in the 11th minute. Sam Ward showed some good improvisation to win GB their first penalty corner. Although Jackson’s drag flick was charged down, it fell to Dan Fox who smashed a backhand towards the far corner where Brogdon touched the ball in to open the scoring.
India started the second quarter strongly but some impeccable defending from Iain Lewers held them at bay in the opening exchanges. Having weathered the storm Great Britain doubled their lead with a lovely second goal. Nick Catlin’s long pass into the circle was touched in by Griffiths who had slipped away from his marker. The umpires consulted the video umpire and the goal was given. Great Britain held a 2-0 lead at the break and Griffiths had his third goal of the competition.
Catlin was causing havoc for the India defence at the start of the second half, an early chance for Jackson went begging but it was a sign of things to come. Great Britain ran riot in the third quarter scoring three times without reply. The first was a flowing move after Pinner made a superb save in a one-on-one situation. The goalkeeper had the presence of mind to kick the ball out to Dixon, launching a counterattack. The No16 found Ward who beat his man in the final third and teed up Jackson to slot home. Dixon got in on the act with the fourth from a lovely penalty corner deflection and then it was 5-0 as the man of the moment, Middleton marked the special occasion with a calm finish from close range.
In the final quarter Brogdon almost added a sixth but his backhand shot flew over the top. India fought hard to build some attacking momentum and won a penalty corner with seven minutes left. Jasit Singh Kular took the shot but he couldn’t hit the target and the effort went wide.
Mark Gleghorne seemed to be having a personal battle with Sreejesh as he sought to add his name to the score sheet. The goalkeeper was forced into action to see off a series of penalty corners from the No14 as GB hunted more goals. James Bailey came on to replace Pinner in the GB goal and the Wimbledon stopper was beaten in the final minute by a fierce penalty corner from Rupinder Singh. It did not affect the result and GB ran out impressive 5-1 winners.
On winning and his 350th international appearance, Great Britain Captain Barry Middleton said, “It’s been a good two weeks. We’ve had a big six or seven months coming into this tournament where we weren’t sure what to expect or where we were as a group. We know we are a good team but we needed to prove it. We pride ourselves on finishing strong in tournaments because that’s where you win medals. It was great to do finish strong again today.
We want to be better in front of goal because that’s how you win games. We’re very good defensively and hard to beat but we want to be better at scoring goals and breaking teams down. We had a great intensity against Australia, but we needed to do that again today and make them chase us, which we did. It’s nice to execute a game plan like that.
We are capable of games like this. It’s hard work out there and we put a lot in to get ourselves into such a strong position. The last couple of minutes were a bit slower but I can promise you it wasn’t comfortable before that. I want to score in every game but it’s one of those things to score on my 350th appearance. It looks nice on the outside and it’s a good feeling but as long as we’re winning 5-1 I don’t mind who’s on the score sheet!”
Speaking on the performance of Great Britain, Head Coach Bobby Crutchley said, “It was a very good performance. Considering it’s the last game of a really tough tournament, to play with that intensity and control the game like that is very good. I’m proud of the players. It’s nice to finish with a big win and it’s our best display in a long time.
One of the key things was to take the lead early. It meant India had to come out at us meaning we could exploit the space behind them. We created chances well and we showed we have the players capable of causing teams problems. We were brave and aggressive in attack but really disciplined in defence, we didn’t give them a lot of chances.
We want to win these tournaments and although we qualified for Rio we wanted to be in the final here. We have a big challenge to get on a par with teams like Australia but we’re certainly heading the right way.”