England Seal Historic Victory Over Australia

England secured an historic and memorable victory over pre-tournament favourites Australia in their opening match of the Hero Honda FIH World Cup in Delhi on Sunday thanks to the outstanding goalkeeping of Cannock’s James Fair and goals from Surbiton forward James Tindall and set piece specialist Ashley Jackson.

England had not beaten the Kookaburras since 1985 and the win was England’s first over Australia in a World Cup match since 1975.  It marks only England's fifth victory in 52 matches between the two nations. 

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Full Match Report below...

AUSTRALIA 2 (1) v 3 (2) ENGLAND
Jamie Dwyer 23, 64 (PS, PC) Ashley Jackson 24 (PC)
James Tindall 33, 45 (PC, F)

England secured an historic and memorable victory over pre-tournament favourites Australia in their opening match of the Hero Honda FIH World Cup in Delhi on Sunday thanks to the outstanding goalkeeping of Cannock’s James Fair and goals from Surbiton forward James Tindall and set piece specialist Ashley Jackson.

The win was England’s first over Australia in a World Cup match since 1975 and only their fifth in 52 matches between the two nations.

Ric Charlesworth’s Kookaburras will be left ruing their inability to convert numerous penalty corners after they scored just one of 13 compared to England’s ratio of two from three.  And it was England’s composed and resolute defence, marshalled by James Fair, which provided the foundations for such an impressive result.

Going into the game Australia were for many observers the team to beat and they began the match with the best of the early pressure.  Grant Schubert signalled the Kookaburras’ intent from the off when he flashed a reverse stick shot wide with less than a minute on the clock and Australia were awarded the first of two early penalty corners with just two minutes on the clock.  East Grinstead’s Glenn Kirkham cleared the danger of the first in front of James Fair, who then pulled off a good save with his left glove from the second corner in the fifth minute.

With seven minutes on the clock, good work from Loughborough Students’ Richard Smith down the right hand side played in Rob Moore and his cross from the right was dangerously deflected up off an Australian stick for England’s first penalty corner.  The ball out from Moore to the top of the circle was set up for HGC’s Ashley Jackson but his low flick flew wide of the bottom of the left post.

On ten minutes, Australia’s Matthew Butturini was suspended for two minutes after receiving a green card but England failed to take advantage and with Australia back to a full complement of players Glenn Turner came close to giving them the advantage.  Two fortunate deflections off the sticks of England defenders fell kindly to Turner in front of goal but England breathed a sigh of relief as he missed the target all together.

There then followed a five minute spell that saw James Fair pull of a series of excellent saves to keep England in the game and ultimately set them up for the historic win.  First, at full stretch, he tipped a high, looping reverse stick effort from Turner wide with his left glove before coming off his line quickly to block from Eddie Ockenden at point blank range.  Following an unconverted Australian corner Fair was called upon again in the 20th minute, keeping out Des Abbot’s strike from a narrow angle on his near post.

There was little the Cannock goalkeeper could do to stop the awarding of a penalty stroke to Australia, ranked second in the world, when Richard Mantell committed a foul on Eddie Ockenden with the goal gaping.  Up stepped three times World Player of the Year Jamie Dwyer whose powerful low penalty squeezed under the left glove of Fair and into the goal to give the Kookaburras the lead.

England had struggled to impose their attacking game on the Australians but having gone behind they rallied and a probing run from Loughborough Students’ Nick Catlin won England their second corner of the match.  From the set piece Jackson flicked the ball powerfully high above goalkeeper George Bazeley and into the roof of the net for an immediate equaliser.  1-1 the score and Jackson’s goal was England’s first against Australia in a World Cup since the 1986 Final in London, which the Kookaburras won 2-1.

Ashley Jackson celebrates after equalising for England against Australia at the Hero Honda FIH World Cup 2010, 28 February 2010

Inside the last five minutes of the first half Rob Moore conceded a penalty corner wide inside the English 23 metre area but again Australia failed to convert and it was to cost them as the half came to an exciting conclusion.

Having been under pressure for most of the opening 35 minutes, England surprised everyone inside the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium by taking the lead with fewer than two minutes of the half remaining.  Ali Brogdon had fired a warning to the Australians a minute earlier when Reading midfielder Iain Mackay put the faintest deflection on the Bowdon player’s shot and George Bazeley had to react well to save with his right leg. 

In the 33rd minute Korean umpire Hong Lae Kim awarded England their third penalty corner for the ball hitting Luke Doerner’s foot.  With Ashley Jackson sitting on the bench it was left to Richard Mantell and James Tindall to mastermind the set piece.  The slip left from the top to Tindall gave the Surbiton man the space to fire a shot across Bazeley that nestled in the far bottom corner to give England a 2-1 lead at the break.

The goal was all the sweeter for 26 year old Tindall given that his participation in the World Cup was only confirmed a week ago after recovering from a broken foot sustained in the Champions Trophy in Melbourne in December.

The second half began at pace and in the opening spell both sides enjoyed possession.  Patient Australian build up play was matched by patient English defending and Beeston defender Ali Wilson was unlucky to have a corner awarded against him after 43 minutes.  Glenn Turner’s break along the left baseline saw the Australian lift the ball into the arm of Wilson and the corner was awarded.  More strong defending kept the Kookaburras out.

Moments later James Tindall sparked a counter attack that led to his second goal as England extended their lead to 3-1.  Cutting in from the left wing, Tindall played a pass to Surbiton teammate Rob Moore on the penalty spot.  Moore’s touch ahead of the advancing Australian goalkeeper diverted the ball towards goal but with the ball rebounding off the post it looked as if Australia had survived.  Tindall though had other ideas and followed up to knock the ball into the empty goal to make it 3-1.

James Tindall (left) is congratulated by teammate Alastair Brogdon after scoring England's third goal against Australia at the Hero Honda FIH World Cup, 28 February 2010

At the other end, Australia thought they had their second penalty corner of the half when James Fair raised a clearance to head height after cutting out a cross from the wing.  However, as soon as the corner was awarded Glenn Kirkham appealed the decision using England’s team referral to the video umpire.  A lengthy delay followed as the replay was reviewed, Kirkham arguing that the initial decision to awarded Australia a sideline pass was incorrect.  Ultimately, the appeal was successful and the decision reversed.

Australia used their appeal to win a penalty corner midway through the half after the ball hit the foot of Ben Hawes but the deflected effort flew wide of Fair’s right hand post.  Fair was then called into action as the Kookaburras split the English back line but he was equal to the task, saving on his post.

Ashley Jackson came close to putting England 4-1 up in a goalmouth scramble but George Bazeley and his defence just managed to clear the danger.

Two more green cards followed; one each for Simon Orchard and Ben Hawes, the latter conceding a penalty corner that Australia tried, unsuccessfully, to have upgraded to a penalty stroke.  Fair got down well to his right to save Mark Knowles’ straight strike and Richard Mantell followed up to turn the ball onto the foot of a waiting Australian forward.

With just over five minutes remaining Australia halved the deficit with their first goal from 13 penalty corners.  James Fair’s block of the initial effort fell back into the danger area and Jamie Dywer was in the right place at the right time to lift the ball into the net to pull a goal back; 3-2 going into the final minutes.

Rob Moore congratulates Ashley Jackson amid England men's celebrations after beating Australia in the opening game of the Hero Honda FIH World Cup, 28 February 2010With Australia pushing for an equaliser Richard Mantell successfully appealed a decision to give the Kookaburras another corner after he had tackled Des Abbot with the ball rolling onto the foot of the young forward.  Umpire Kim initially gave the corner for a follow up foul against the Reading defender but Mantell’s original tackle was the vital one and the decision was reversed.

Entering the final two minutes England sat deep, soaking up intense Australian pressure and with the vocal Indian crowd counting down the clock they held on to secure a memorable and valuable 3-2 victory over the pre-tournament favourites.

Afterwards, England manager Andy Halliday praised the efforts of James Fair and the penalty corner defence team but admitted England were second best throughout: “It was a fantastic result but the performance could have been so much better.  I think it’s a measure of how much this team has progressed that we can play poorly and beat Australia.

“James [Fair] and the penalty corner defence were outstanding today.  We’ll certainly not get carried away just because we have won game one.”

England’s next match is against South Africa at 11:05GMT on Tuesday.  Elsewhere in Pool B, Spain beat South Africa 4-2 in the opening game of the tournament.  Hosts India meet rivals Pakistan in the final match of the opening day.