England edge fighting India with late stunner

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Malaysia’s men were hammered 6-2 by Belgium at the hockey World Cup in The Hague on Monday, while England’s men earned a crucial 2-1 win victory over India thanks to a late goal. Simon Mantell moved England onto four points in pool A when, with just 75 seconds remaining, he pounced to fire home a rebound after goalkeeper Harjot Singh parried a penalty corner. “I thought India played well — it was a tough game and there was some sloppy play from us in the first half,” England coach Bobby Crutchley said. England had taken the lead in the 27th minute when Mark Gleghorne converted a short corner but India immediately fought back to cancel out the advantage.

Just three minutes after falling behind, India levelled as Dharamvir Singh turned his marker at the edge of the D and superbly shot past unsighted keeper George Pinner. India perhaps had the better of a tightly fought contest but could not find a winning goal in the second half and Mantell’s late strike maintained England’s hopes of reaching the semifinals. India must now try to bounce back from the heart break of a second successive last-minute defeat. “The reality is we have no points from two matches despite playing some really good hockey,” said India coach Terry Walsh. “We are in this environment and we are playing the top teams, so we will benefit from that.” Malaysia, looking to recover from a heavy defeat to Australia in their first game, twice took the lead against Belgium through Razie Abd Rahim, but on each occasion Tom Boon equalised.

When Boon completed his hat-trick in the 31st minute the tide had turned in favour of the Belgians, who swept away Malaysia in the second half. Tanguy Cosyns and John-John Dohmen each scored either side of Boon bagging his fourth as Belgium joined Australia atop the group as the only sides in the pool to have won both matches so far. Earlier, Australia celebrated a double success as the women’s side defeated Japan 3-2 and the men strolled to a 3-0 win over Spain. The Spaniards drew their opening game with England but were no match for the Australians who seized the momentum early on thanks to Tim Deavin sliding in the opening goal after only two minutes. Mark Knowles flicked in a penalty after Spain committed an offence, while defending a penalty corner, and another short corner was finished by Kieran Govers to make it 3-0 on the stroke of half time.

“We took our foot off the pedal in the second half,” Deavin said in explanation for the goalless second period, “that can happen when you have a lead and it is something we need to look at.” The Australian women were also in control in their game with Japan, taking 10 shots to their opponents three, but fell behind in the 20th minute when Yuri Nagai finished a quick break. Anna Flanagan swept home a short corner to level at half time before Emily Smith and Flanagan, again from a penalty corner, gave Australia a 3-1 lead by 45 minutes. Shiho Sakai pulled one back just before the hour but Japan slipped to a second successive defeat in pool A. With his team maintaining a 100 per cent record, Australian coach Adam Commens expressed his satisfaction at coming from behind to gain victory.

“I think it was a satisfying performance from us to go one nil down and then to come back and persevere with the game plan that we had,” he said. South Korea’s women caused an upset by winning 1-0 against New Zealand thanks to Kim Darae scoring with a stunning deflection which found the net via both bar and post in the 30th minute. They then missed a number of chances to make the game safe. The Black Sticks almost made the Koreans pay for not increasing their lead only for keeper Jang Soo Ji to deny Anita Punt on the backhand. Punt then failed to convert a short corner in the closing stages and South Korea claimed the points.

In yesterday’s action, European champions Germany fought to a 3-1 victory over South Africa for their first victory in the women’s event. Marie Maevers got a 21st and 65th-minute double and Christian Hillmann scored the other in the 50th for Germany. Shelly Russell got South Africa on the scoreboard in the 64th minute. Germany were not fully convincing again after being held 1-1 by China in their opening game but at least temporarily moved atop group B with four points ahead of other games.