England booked a place in Saturday’s final by outclassing Malaysia 7-2. Playing under a steady drizzle that obviously suited the English, it was actually all over in the first quarter as England raced to a 3-0 lead. England will take on defending champions Australia who qualified for their 14th final in 27 editions. Australia will be looking at winning their tenth title after being denied by Great Britain last year.
Earlier Argentina lost the opening match of the day, going down 3-1 to Australia. And that opened the door slightly for India to stake a claim for the final spot. However the Asian Champions lost 3-2 to Ireland despite leading in two occasions. That result meant that Ireland and India were doomed to play the 5/6 placing on Saturday while Argentina face Malaysia for the bronze.
Malaysia started aggressively forcing two penalty corners in the opening five minutes but both were well saved by English keeper George Pinner. And England then seized the initiative to force three penalty corners, with Mark Gleghorne converting in the 10th minute to give England a 1-0 lead. More was to follow as England doubled the lead in the 11th minute through Ollie Willars. Barry MIidfketon made it 3-0 through a neat reverse stick hot in the 14th minute. A minute after resumption, Barry Middleton made it 4-0. Sam Ward was at hand to finish off a delightful move to score the fifth in the 38th minute. And Sam Ward made it 6-0 in the 41st minute, converting a penalty corner. Mark Gleghorne made it 7-0 when he converted a penalty stroke and the home team was in tatters. Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin scored the consolation for Malaysia in the 50th minute through a penalty corner set piece. And two minutes later Marhan Jalil scored Malaysia’s second but it was too little too late.
Earlier Australia eliminated Argentina from a place in the final with a clinical display registering a 3-1 in the last preliminary round match. The result meant that the Australians remain undefeated in five matches. “If I look back at the five games played, we have been consistent with what we do and today we did not start as well as we wanted, and Argentina obviously got in front” said Australian coach Colin Batch. “They are playing well and good credit to my players in the comeback to level firstly and then win the game in the last couple of minutes of the fourth quarter. We know that good consistence performance is what we want in our team. We are never a team that just rely on one player. We are pleased with that result and scored the goals under difficult situations and conditions. He added further, “We also know that penalty corners are important for Argentina and Andrew Charter made some good saves at the back. We are looking forward to tomorrow’s final and we are not sure who our opponents will be, but we have a good look at the last two games (India-Ireland and Malaysia-England).”
Argentina earned a penalty corner in the ninth minute but Gonzalo Peillat, their most trusted drag-flick specialist, fumbled in the set piece and the first quarter ended scoreless. The Australians had a great chance to take the lead at the start of the second quarter, but Daniel Beale fired a meekly shot with goalkeeper Juan Vivaldi in his way. The Rio Olympics champions, however, forced a second penalty in the 21st minute and Peillat drove the ball to the left of goalkeeper Andrew Charter to go 1-0 ahead. But the Australians were back in the groove five minutes later when Aaron Kleinschmidt restored parity in the side.
Dylan Waterspoon dazzled his way into the D, took a first aim shot at goal but the ball rebounded off Vivaldi’s pads. An unmarked Kleinschmidt steered the ball into goal. Argentina were top of their game in the fourth quarter, picking their fifth penalty corner but all the efforts went to waste as Charter, who was voted Man of the Match, stood tall for his heroic acts. While Argentina dominated the last quarter, it was Australia who did the damage with two quick field goals in the last five minutes of play. Trent Mitton extended the lead in the 55th minute and Kleinschmidt stretched it to 3-1 a minute later. The result ended Argentina’s hopes of a quick entry to the final as their fate now hinges on the Malaysia-England match later in the night. “It has now been three matches in a row we have been missing that luck and a quick assessment of our matches we have been doing everything as planned” lamented Argentina coach Rolando Rivero”.
Meanwhile Ireland dashed any hopes India had of making the final as they carved out a 3-2 win. It was a remarkable performance from a team that had yet to win one game prior to this match. “Throughout the whole tournament we have been asking for improvement from the players in every game. You defend well and take your chances anything can happen”, said Ireland coach Craig Fulton. “It wasn’t a great game, a lot of turnovers and at the end of the day I am glad we stayed close. It scores didn’t move far away from us in the first half and then we had to play harder to get back into the game. There is quality in every quarter when we were just separated by one goal”. He added that, “We had an injury with one player needing stitches, and another vomiting on the bench. A player was also suspended. We did that with 13 players at one stage. So, it was crazy but a good game for us. This is the first time Ireland had beaten India if I can recall in an international test match. We have drawn before but not actually got a win over them”. Looking ahead at tomorrow’s game he said, “I am not even worried about tomorrow (5th/6th playoff) as it will come. I am happy for the guys that we have been progressing in this tournament. Four games we have lost with good performance and in the fifth game was sheer rewarding”
Sardar Singh led India against the Irish with Suraj Karkera in the goal. And ten minutes into the match, Ramandeep Singh put India ahead 1-0 from their first penalty corner. The Irish equalized through Shane O’Donoghue who packed the ball past Suraj in the 24th minute off a cross from Kirk Shimmins. But the Indians were back on their feet moments later following a third penalty corner in the 26th minute and Amit Rohidas placed the ball in the roof of the Irish net to lead 2-1. Ireland equalized again in the 36th minute through Sean Murray’s field goal sand went 3-2 ahead via a Lee Coly penalty corner conversion in the 42nd minute. For Indian coach Sjoerd Marijne, the defeat was a bitter pill to swallow. “The progress we have been making in this tournament has been good,” he said. “We have been playing every match better and better and today we took a deep step back. I know that happens when a team does not play a lot together. We have a lot of unexperienced players. I can’t blame the team. Those things happen. We must talk about ourselves in preparations. Today the level (scale between 1-10) just dropped and that sometimes happens.”