Pakistan push England hard in 2-2 draw

Ollie Willars scores his first international goal against Pakistan in the World League Semi Final 450x302
Pakistan 2 (1)
Imran Muhammad 18 (PC)
Abdul Haseem Khan 50 (PC)

England 2 (2) 
Ollie Willars 13 (FG)
Adam Dixon 25 (PC)

Day two of the World League Semi Final in Malaysia saw England take on Pakistan in a nail-biting 70 minutes of action. Both sides played attacking end to end hockey and created some brilliant moments, but ultimately nothing could separate them as the game played out for a 2-2 draw. Beeston’s Ollie Willars and Adam Dixon were on target for England in the first half; however Pakistan were never far behind pulling both goals back. 

Speaking after the game, Barry Middleton said, “I’m a bit disappointed with the result today. We knew if we won it would put us in a good spot in the competition and we had a chance to win it at the end like yesterday, but unfortunately it didn’t come off for us this time. Having said that, I think given the chances both sides had, especially in the second half, it was probably a fair result. There is a bit more pressure on us going into our next game now against Malaysia, but we’ve got a day to regroup and come back ready.” 

Pakistan enjoyed the majority of possession in the opening stages, but expect for one chance which went wide of Beeston’s George Pinner in goal, the world number five side didn’t pose too many threats to England who were patient in their build up play.

In the 13th minute East Grinstead’s Ashley Jackson fed the ball into the circle and neat play by England resulted in Beeston’s Harry Martin getting a shot away to Imran Shah in goal. The Pakistan goalkeeper saved well initially, but the rebound fell to Willars who made no mistake, sweeping the ball in to give him his first England goal and take a 1-0 lead.

Five minutes later Pakistan won a penalty corner. The initial strike from Captain Imran Muhammad was saved, but the ball deflected back onto Mark Gleghorne’s foot to give them a second go. This time Muhammad made no mistake, with a disguised drag flick that went low to Pinner’s left after the tall keeper had already committed right, leveling the score at 1-1.

Despite the setback England didn’t panic and they were able to restore their lead before the break. After being awarded a penalty corner on the 26th minute, Richard Smith looked to be lining up for another effort after his crucial goal in the last two minutes of yesterday’s match against South Africa. However, on receipt of the ball, Smith pulled it back out to the injector, Adam Dixon, who finished brilliantly from a tight angle to take the score to 2-1 at half-time.

In contrast to the closing stages of the first 35 minutes, Pakistan came out the blocks hard in the second half forcing England to defend for considerable periods. England stood strong, with some gutsy defending from the likes of Fox, Smith and Willars, but Pakistan eventually broke through. Another flick from Imran, deflected goal bound, was saved brilliantly by Pinner, but there was nothing he could do about the rebound which sat up kindly for Abdul Haseem Khan to tap into England’s goal for 2-2.

The attacks from Pakistan were relentless with great build up play and plenty of chances, but Pinner was equal to them in goal, producing some world class saves. Despite the pressure England looked dangerous when they broke. Reading’s Darren Cheesman and Hampstead & Westminster’s Dan Fox both came close, but Imran Shah was mirroring the fine form of Pinner at the opposing end, ensuring his side took a well earned point from the game. 

Speaking after full-time, Head Coach Bobby Crutchley said, “We were under the cosh for a good deal of the second half because we couldn’t hold on to possession, but in the periods where our passing was slicker we caused problems for Pakistan. We just need to find that consistency. I was again impressed with the resilience that the group showed in the stifling conditions out here.”

The result sees England lying second in Pool B with the match between Malaysia and South Africa still left to play.

England’s next match sees them take on hosts Malaysia at 12:00 (UK time) on Tuesday, tomorrow is a rest day. Watch it live on the FIH You Tube channel.