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Day 4 – First round for Great Britain over India
07 Mar 2008 02:46

Photo (c) FIH / Fernando Fernández

On day 4 at the WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier in Santiago, Great Britain defeated India to stand alone at the top of the Points Table, Austria had trouble to prevail over Mexico and Russia shocked host Chile to earn their first points of the competition.

Game 10 – India v. Great Britain: 2-3 (half-time: 1-1)

The day started with the much anticipated game between Great Britain and India, the two teams largely favorites to fight for the lone ticket to Beijing on Sunday afternoon. Besides the immediate purpose of Olympic qualification, India vs. Great Britain is always a classic fixture in the hockey world, with historical results heavily in favor of the Asian team that claimed 24 wins against only 9 for the British team.

Before the start of play, Indian player Ignace TIRKEY was recognized for his 200th International Caps, British player Jonty CLARKE for his 100th, and Danish umpire Henrik EHLERS for his 150th International assignment. Also noted was the return of Coach Jason LEE on the British bench, after a brief trip back to England for the birth of his son.

The game was played early in the afternoon for TV broadcasting reasons and started with a bang for India, forcing a penalty corner in the 3rd minute of play. Alistair McGREGOR in the British goal was completely wrong-footed by V.R. RAGHUNATH’s powerful flick on the left post and India opened the scoring much to the delight of the Indian fans.

Great Britain settled down and played for a while with an extra player when Vickram KANTH was showed a yellow card. They threatened the Indian defense but showed some nervousness in front of the goal, finally tying the game on a penalty-corner by Richard MANTELL. The game then stayed in midfield for a while, with the traditional opposition of a more structured build-up from Great Britain and fast penetrating runs from India.

India were reduced to ten players again after Shivendra SINGH was showed a yellow card for a reckless tackle. Great Britain controlled the end of the period and were close to score on a fast combination of passes in the Indian circle, however the best opportunity was for Prabhjot SINGH who inherited a deep ball alone in front of the British goalkeeper but shot just wide.

After a tied score at half-time (1-1), the second period started with the same scenario as the first one, with India attacking immediately and forcing a series of penalty-corners that Great Britain struggled to survive unscathed. Great Britain had a series of unsuccessful penalty-corners of their own, but finally took the lead by Jonty CLARKE, not missing the chance to score on the occasion of his 100th Cap when receiving the ball in front of the empty goal after a decisive penetrating run on the right by Ali WILSON and Richard ALEXANDER.

India tried to create chances by hitting long balls into the circle, but the British team maintained their strict defensive structure to thwart the somewhat desperate Indian attempts. India finally tied the game in the 64th minute on a penalty corner by V.R. RAGHUNATH, his second goal of the game that pushed him to the top of the Goal Scorers list with a total of 8.

Great Britain regained the lead with a few minutes left in the game by Rob MOORE on another fast combination of passes in the circle, securing in the process the bragging rights in the rivalry between the two teams, although players and coaches on both sides were quick to acknowledge that the real test will be the Final on Sunday.

Game 11 – Austria v. Mexico: 3-1 (half-time: 1-1)

The pace at the beginning of this game suffered the comparison with the intensity of the India vs. Great Britain encounter. Austria seemed to head for a comfortable afternoon after Michael KÖRPER opened the scoring on penalty-corner in the 6th minute, but the score was leveled a few minutes later when Francisco AGUILAR MONTOYA unleashed a quick shot that surprised Mateusz SZYMCZYK in the Austrian goal.

Austria were far from controlling the play, committing an unusual number of unforced errors and giveaways. As was already the case in the previous games, Moises VARGAS GARCIA was outstanding in the Mexican goal, preventing the score from escalating. Half-time was reached on the tied score of 1-1, a scenario that the Austrians were probably not anticipating.

Things did not get much better for Austria at the start of the second half; they had to survive a couple of good Mexican opportunities and were indeed lucky to escape a penalty-stroke after a stick infringement on a Mexican forward alone in front of the keeper. Austria were clearly lacking the dynamism, and possibly the motivation, that they had displayed in previous games, while Mexico were only lacking some realism in front of goal to jump into the lead.

It is only in the 55th minute that Benjamin STANZL finally relieved his team with a strike from close range that left no chance to the keeper. The Mexicans did not let down easily and kept pushing back the Austrian defense, even forcing Thomas HÜBNER to an untidy back-tackle that sent him off with a yellow card. Austria finally scored another goal by Michael KÖRPER, for a victory that they were certainly hoping to be larger and easier.

Game 12 – Russia v. Chile: 2-1 (half-time: 0-0)

The last game of the day followed a similar scenario, with host team Chile playing off their pace now that their hopes of reaching the Final had evaporated, and minnow Russia putting up a good show hoping to grab their first point of the competition.

The game was even in first period, with chances at both ends. The crowd was kept entertained, although they would certainly have preferred to celebrate Chilean goals. The deadlock was finally broken in the 48th minute by Evgeny MOKROUSOV making the best of a good pass by Alexey MAMOSHKIN. With an increased sense of urgency in the Chilean ranks, the game became rougher and both teams received yellow cards.

Chilean Captain Felipe was trying hard, constantly bringing back the danger in front of the Russian goal with his long runs, but not much was going Chile’s way and they spoiled a few penalty-corners and were further denied by a miraculous save by Roman ROGOV in the Russian goal, somehow managing to stop the ball on a goalmouth scramble.

Sensing their first point of the competition, the Russians kept well their composure and their defensive organization, but could not prevent Alan STEIN from tying the game in the 65th minute with a superb reverse stick shot in a tight angle. The joy of the home crowd was short-lived as Dmitry AZAROV immediately gave back the lead to his team on a deserved penalty-stroke.

The end of game was extremely tense, but Russia maintained the narrow margin to earn their first win of the competition. The blow was on the other hand tough for Chile: they have to meet India on the last day of pool play, while Russia will play against Russia, and could very well end-up in the 5th-6th place classification game, very far from what they were expecting at the onset of the event.

Great Britain is now alone at the top of the Points Table with the maximum points (12), followed by India and Austria with 9 points, Chile and Russia with 3 pts, then Mexico still without a point.

The WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier continues on Saturday in Santiago with the conclusion of pool play, when Great Britain meet Austria, Russia take on Mexico, and host Chile conclude the day against India.

WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier, Men – Santiago, Chile
Results day 4: Thursday 6 March 2008

India - Great Britain 2:3 (1:1)
 3mn  V.R. Raghunath (PC)  1:0
15mn  Richard Mantell (PC)  1:1
45mn  Jonty Clarke (FG)  1:2
64mn  V.R. Raghunath (PC)  2:2
69mn  Rob Moore (FG)  2:3

Austria - Mexico 3:1 (1:1)
 6mn  Michael Körper (PC)  1:0
12mn  Francisco Aguilar Montoya (FG)  1:1
55mn  Benjamin Stanzl (FG)  2:1
64mn  Michael Körper (PC)  3:1

Russia - Chile 2:1 (0:0)
48mn  Evgeny Mokrousov (FG)  1:0
65mn  Alan Stein (FG)  1:1
68mn  Dmitry Azarov (PS)  2:1

Standings: 1) Great Britain 12pts 2) India 9pts 3) Austria 9pts 4) Chile 3pts 5) Russia 3pts 6) Mexico 0pt

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