THE HAGUE: An intriguing match between the world number one team and the up and coming Belgium saw the reigning World Cup holders emerge with a 3-1 win, but only after a fine performance by the Australian keeper Andrew Charter and his back line kept Tom Boon and his medal-hungry teammates at bay. First blood almost went to Belgium when Thomas Briels ran through the Australian defence and passed to Simon Gougnard who unleashed a shot that flew past Charter.
Seconds later Australia took the initiative and won a penalty corner. Kieran Govers’ shot brought out the best of Vincent Vanash, but even he couldn’t stop the thunderbolt of a drag flick from Chris Ciriello that gave Australia a 1-0 lead just three minutes later. The hard-working Australian team, led from the front by Glenn Turner then turned over the Belgium defence with a quick break. Turner’s pass to Jacob Whetton was inch perfect and the midfielder slotted home to extend the lead to 2-0.
The two quick goals rocked Belgium and much of the first half saw the Australians dominating play, with Jamie Dwyer firing just wide and Aran Zalewski putting in a devastating run down the centre of the pitch, only to be foiled by a packed Belgium defence. There were moments of hope for the Red Lions in the closing moments of the first half. Cedric Charlier had a mid-air duel with Charter, which resulted in a penalty corner; and Thomas Briel had a moment of brilliance when he received a ball, turned and fired a shot that was saved by the cat-like reactions of the Kookaburra’s ‘keeper.
Australia further extended their lead in the opening minutes of the second half through a fabulous reverse stick shot from Eddie Ockenden (36’) - just reward for a busy and productive performance from the midfielder. Conversely, this third goal seemed to settle the Belgium team and the second half was a much more even affair.
In very untypical fashion Tom Boon missed a chance in front of the circle when a ball was fired in and the striker failed to get a touch on it. His half-hearted celebration convinced no-one, but there was a real celebration on 45 minutes when Sebastien Dockier scored from a penalty corner. Despite a determined last few minutes, Belgium were unable to make further inroads and the match finished with Australia continuing to dominate Pool A with maximum points from three matches.
England beat Malaysia 2-0: England played tactical hockey to overcome a strong challenge from Malaysia with a 2-0 win and stay in contention for the semifinals of the men’s World Cup on Thursday. England enjoyed an edge from the moment Mark Gleghorne put them ahead in the fourth minute with a field goal. Malaysia pushed them hard, forcing a number of chances and three penalty corners, but failed to secure the equaliser as England hung on grimly. Three minutes from close, Ashley Jackson placed a stinging penalty corner into the goal to seal the victory for England. England now have seven points from three matches in Group A. They stay in semifinal contention with Olympic silver medalists Australia and Belgium, both of whom have won their previous two games and are to clash later this evening. Also in the same group, India, who lost their previous two matches, play Spain later this evening.
India draw 1-1 with Spain: India and Spain take a point each after a 1-1 draw in their preliminary league encounter of the World Cup at the Greenfields Stadium on Thursday. Bogged down by two successive losses, an under-pressure Indian hockey team confronted by Spain’s livewire strikers. After conceding match-winners to Belgium and England in the closing stages of successive matches, the Indian defence will need to raise its game several notches against Spain, who won a penalty shootout against India for the fifth position when they last met in the 2013 World League semifinals.
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