England U21s forced to settle for a draw against Pakistan.

Will Calnan celebrates

A last minute goal from Pakistan’s Abu Mahmood meant England’s U21s were forced to settle for a draw in their second match of the Sultan of Johor Cup. The Pakistan No4 slotted in a penalty corner in the 69th minute to secure a draw after England had led 2-0 going into the final ten minutes.

Buoyed by their win over the hosts yesterday, Jon Bleby’s side started in confident mood. A fairly even opening ten minutes was notable for the pace at which both sides attacked each other. It felt almost like a basketball match with the teams seemingly taking it in turns to try and score at a 100 miles an hour.

On 12 minutes England hit the front. Will Calnan’s penalty corner deceived the goalkeeper for his second goal of the competition.

England spent the next ten minutes on the back foot with Pakistan testing their defensive capabilities to their limits. Jack Waller acquitted himself well, using his pace and excellent tackling to great effect to keep his opposite number quiet.

Toby Reynolds-Cotterill did superbly to block from Muhammad Dilber and then pulled off an even better save somehow shifting his weight from one side to the other in the blink of an eye to keep out Ullah Sami.

Four minutes after the break England doubled their lead. Another Calnan penalty corner caused the damage. The goalkeeper saved well but the rebound fell to the Hampstead and Westminster man who turned and slotted a good low backhand shot into the net for his second of the match and his third of the competition.

England lost James Simpson to injury and the loss of a player seemed to tell as they were pushed further and further back by Pakistan. Reynolds-Cotterill excelled once again with a fine save but then with seven minutes remaining he was beaten as Ullah snapped up a penalty corner rebound from close range to halve the deficit.

Zaman Tahir’s team were awarded a penalty stroke moments later but the England goalkeeper pulled off a stunning save, diving to his right.

It looked like England were going to do enough to take the three points but with a minute left on the clock Pakistan got their equaliser as Mahmood finally broke Reynolds-Cotterill’s resistance from a penalty corner.

Head Coach Jon Bleby commented afterwards:

“It was a tough game for us. I thought we defended well in the first half but were perhaps not as good on the ball as we needed to be. We missed a chance to put pressure on them when they were down to ten men. We gave the ball away too much and that allowed them back into the match. I was worried when they got the penalty stroke but luckily our goalkeeper made a good save. It’s been a good lesson for us and showed the team it is important to keep the ball better.”

“We play Japan next. We’ve had two tough matches so far and we expect Japan to be tough as well.”

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