Bleby left disappointed as England settle for fourth

Jon Bleby gives the team talk to his England U21 side

England U21 Head Coach Jon Bleby could not hide his disappointment as he watched his team slip to fourth place in the Sultan of Johor Cup after a shootout defeat at the hands of Japan.

“We’re really disappointed to lose. I actually thought our hockey and our performance was really good but our execution wasn’t good enough. We had five corners and didn’t score. We conceded one corner out of one we had numerous chances and didn’t take them.” said Bleby.

“We played some brilliant hockey but we need to get ourselves over the line and start winning games we dominate.”

England seemed in complete control of the game, boasting 67% possession and the majority of the game’s clear chances.

They took the lead in the 20th minute thanks a Jack Clee goal. Jack Waller latched onto Peter Scott’s pass and slid the ball into Clee who produced his trademark spin and shot to beat the goalkeeper.

Keita Matsuda in the Japan goal did well to extend a left foot to save a Will Calnan penalty corner as England aimed to extend their lead. Japan levelled the scores from their first real attack. Miyu Tanimitsu beat Toby Reynolds-Cotterill with a bullet drag flick from a penalty corner.

Just before the break the lead was restored for Bleby’s side. Jack Turner’s shot came back off the woodwork but Waller was alert and pounced to slam in the rebound.

England dominated the second half and Calnan hooked a penalty corner wide before Chris Proctor was somehow kept out by Mutsuda with a phenomenal save. Despite their dominance England were unable to give themselves a cushion and with 15 minutes to go they were made to pay. Kaito Tanaka found space in the circle and sent a searing shot past the goalkeeper to make it 2-2. James Gall stung the goalkeeper’s chest pad in the dying moments of the game but it ended all square and went to a shootout.

Japan scored all four of their efforts whilst Clee and Rhys Smith could not beat the goalkeeper and England were beaten.

Despite his disappointment, Bleby was pleased with his side’s efforts, saying afterwards:

“We came here to win it. We wanted to win every game and we wanted to get a medal. It’s been great development for the Junior World Cup. It’s been a fantastic tournament and I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made and we now prepare for December.”

All the scores, scorers, fixtures and standings can be found here.