England steal a draw in World League opener

Ben Arnold celebrates scoring his debut goal for England against South Africa at the World League2

OG 13
Ben Arnold 56 (FG)                                           
Richard Smith 68 (PC)                                                              

Julian Hykes 6, 11 (FG, FG)
Timothy Drummond 65 (PC)

It was a day of sharing the spoils as the last of the World League Semi Finals got underway in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. England earned their draw the hard way, coming back from a goal down in the final two minutes to draw 3-3 with South Africa. Ben Arnold and Richard Smith were on target for England, Arnold picking a great occasion to score his first senior international goal and Smith firing home from a penalty corner in the dying minutes to give their side a well earned point.

Speaking after the game, Head Coach Bobby Crutchley said, “I thought we battled hard today. After a sluggish start we made defensive errors across the pitch, not just in our own circle, and we were punished by South Africa. However there were several positive aspects to our play particularly in the second half. I was proud of the team at 3-2 down, we stayed positive and the equaliser was just reward for our resilience throughout the whole game. We look forward to the challenge of Pakistan tomorrow.”

Both teams lined up for the final match of the day in Malaysia knowing that a win would put them in a strong position having seen the other match in Pool B between Malaysia and Pakistan end 4-4. It was South Africa who got off to the better start. Julian Hykes found himself with space in the circle after he’d picked off a pass which had cut through England’s defence. He then disposed of the ball with a rifling shot past a helpless George Pinner at the near post who had no chance to react.

By the 11th minute England found themselves two goals down. Hykes once again was the scorer as he created space for himself in the England circle, this time approaching the goal from the opposite side. He drove towards the backline and with a clever dummy wrong footed Pinner to slot the ball home past the inside post.

England reacted quickly and in the 13th minute Reading’s Tom Carson beat the South African defence and hit a cross into the circle which was deflected in from a defender’s stick past Erasmus Pieterse in goal to make it 2-1.

South Africa continued to look dangerous on the attack despite England just edging the overall possession for the half, however neither side could capitalise on their chances the score remained 2-1 at half time.

The story continued in much the same way in the second half, however England did begin to settle into their rhythm. Beeston’s Adam Dixon and Reading’s Darren Cheesman both created chances in the early stages, but Pieterse stood strong in goal keeping England out.

With 15 minutes to go England won their first penalty corner of the game. Richard Smith took the flick, but it was well saved and dealt with by Pieterse and his South African defence. Moments later East Grinstead’s Mark Gleghorne picked a ball up off a South African error and drove into the circle with only one defender in sight. He selflessly passed to his right to pick out Beeston’s Ben Arnold, who got his shot away before a tackle could be made and scored his first senior international goal, crucially bringing England back on level terms.

In a hectic final 10 minutes there were chances for both sides. South Africa looked to have spoilt England’s night when Timothy Drummond deflected in off an Austin Smith penalty corner flick to make it 3-2, however England were not finished yet. With just two minutes left on the clock, Richard Smith stepped up to take England’s second penalty corner of the game. This time his flick was dragged with pin point accuracy to Pieterse’s right and he celebrated with his side as they stole a goal back to make it 3-3 and take a point from their first game.

England’s next match sees them take on Pakistan at 14:00 (UK time) tomorrow. Watch it live on the FIH You Tube channel.

Men’s World League Semi Final – match schedule & results

Date/Math #      Match               Time (UK)         Teams      Result

June 29th, 2013                         

1                      Pool A              08:00                GER - ARG       1-1

2                      Pool A              10:00                KOR – JPN       3-3

3                      Pool B              12:00                PAK - MAS       4-4

4                      Pool B              14:00                ENG - RSA       3-3