Penalty shoot out heartbreak as England lose 3-3 semi final thriller

On a night of high drama, driven by fervent passion and the desire for gold medal success, England and India played out a thrilling and at times excruciatingly tense Commonwealth Games semi final in front of a packed Major Dhyan Chand stadium.

XIXth Commonwealth Games
Men’s Semi Final 2

Ashley Jackson 35, 41 (PC, PC)             
Simon Mantell 45 (PC)               
INDIA 3* (1)
Saravanjit Singh 20, 60 (PC, F)               
Vikram Pillay 56 (F)                    
*India win 5-4 on penalty strokes    

Even before the match progressed agonisingly through golden goal extra time to penalty stokes it had been packed with action and incident aplenty in a magnificent advert for the sport.

Ashley Jackson celebrates scoring against India in the semis - Commonwealth Games 2010

To the delighted of the home crowd their heroes took the lead through Saravanjit Singh 20 minutes into the match when he pounced on a loose ball following England goalkeeper James Fair’s save at a penalty corner.  Set piece specialist Ashley Jackson levelled things on the stroke of half time with a low flick and just over five minutes into the second half the World Young Player of the Year netted a second, from a penalty corner, flicking inside the post to put England ahead.

Things got even better for England soon after when Simon Mantell flicked a third from the very next penalty corner, catapulting the ball home after brother Richard had dummied at the top of the circle.  A devastating spell almost produced a fourth as England looked to seal their place in the final. 

First Jackson was denied a hat-trick by the width of the crossbar before Surbiton forward James Tindall saw his shot kicked clear by Chetri in the India goal.

Having failed so narrowly to extend their lead England found themselves on the back foot as India rallied.  After Sandeep Singh flashed a corner wide of Fair’s left post, Vikram Pillay reduced the deficit to one goal as dived in bravely to connect with Sandeep Singh’s cross from the left.  

India score against England CWG 2010And it was 3-3 shortly after, much to the frustration of the English defence who protested a dangerous swing from Raj Pal Singh prevented Richard Smith from intervening as Saravanjit Singh shot home from close range after the ball landed at his feet from a cut back.

The goals transformed India who threw everything they had at England.  But for the reflexes of Cannock goalkeeper Fair the match may have never reached penalty strokes but the 29 year old pulled off a string of saves late in the game to keep India out.  

With the score tied at 3-3 the game went to golden goal extra time with England finding themselves defending against a driven Indian attack.  Fair again made two saves in the first period of extra time, notably from Tushar Khandkar, who deflected a cross goalwards from close range.  Sandeep Singh whizzed a penalty corner wide on the stroke of extra time half time.

With three minutes remaining England captain Barry Middleton came close to silencing the crowd when got his stick to Ashley Jackson’s cross.  The ball altered course but trickled agonisingly wide of the back post.

Richard Mantell defending against India CWG 2010

And so to penalty strokes.  Loughborough Students’ Richard Smith and Reading’s Richard Mantell got England off to a good start, scoring the penalties as did India’s first two takers, Saravanjit Singh and Vikram Pillay, although the latter’s action was later brought into question by England’s players who felt there was double movement.  

Barry Middleton explained afterwards that England had not chosen their penalty takers in advance; simply they had been asked after extra time who felt they could take one.  Five hands went up.  East Grinstead and England vice-captain Glenn Kirkham was England’s third taker.  He stepped up and flicked his penalty to the left but Chetri guessed correctly, diving to his right and gloving the ball away to safety.  When Sandeep Singh rifled India ahead from the next flick India seized the advantage.  Despite both Ashley Jackson and Simon Mantell scoring with their efforts, so did Arjun Halappa and Shivendra Singh, sparking wild scenes of celebration in the stands all around the ground.  Halappa’s effort was also questioned by England who said afterwards they believed the penalty to have been dragged rather than flicked or pushed.

Some of England’s players approached the umpires, remonstrating about the second and fourth Indian penalties before following the Indian team on a lap around the pitch to applaud the crowd.

Afterwards, England captain Middleton said that although there were several contentious issues, England had the chances to win the match.

“It’s very, very painful.  It’s not just about the penalties though.  We were 3-1 up and hit the bar.  We had chances.  We’ve worked so hard, for this tournament in particular.  It was in our hands and we’ve lost it.

“Most people have given up jobs to be part of this [the England and Great Britain teams].  We came here to win medals.”

On the disputed penalty strokes, Middleton said, “I couldn’t see clearly but the guys say he [Arjun Halappa] drag flicked the penalty.  Now, we all know you can’t drag it.  That rule changed at least five years ago.  We know it, they Indians know and the umpires know it.”

On the contested third Indian goal in normal time, during which Richard Smith was forced to take evasive action from a swing by the Indian captain Raj Pal Singh, Middleton said, “We feel if someone swings and misses it it’s bad technical ability.  If someone has to take a step back then it has impacted on the game.”

England Head Coach Jason Lee gave his thoughts afterwards.  

“At least one of the penalties was a double movement and one was a drag.  There could be some debate and discussion about it but that’s international hockey.  The players have done exceptionally well tonight.  At 3-1 we hit the bar; if that had gone in it would have been game over.

“We had a 17 year old in the squad tonight [Harry Martin] who was playing under 18 hockey two months ago and Richard Mantell who has just come back from breaking his ankle in the World Cup.”

England will now meet New Zealand at 9:00am local time (4:30am BST) on Thursday to play off for the bronze medal.


James Fair (Cannock) GK
Adam Dixon (Beeston)  Def/Mid
Richard Mantell (Reading)  Def
Richard Smith (Loughborough Students)  Def
Alastair Wilson (Beeston)  Def
Ashley Jackson (East Grinstead)  Mid
Glenn Kirkham (East Grinstead) Mid
Harry Martin (Old Loughtonians)  Mid
Rob Moore (Wimbledon)  Mid/Fwd
Barry Middleton (Der Club an der Alster)  Mid/Fwd
James Tindall (Surbiton)  Fwd
Substitutes Used
Richard Alexander (Surbiton)  Def/Mid/Fwd
Iain Mackay (Reading)  Mid/Fwd
Alastair Brogdon (Bowdon)  Fwd
Nick Catlin (Loughborough Students)  Fwd
Simon Mantell (Reading)  Fwd
Substitutes Not Used

BBC Live Commentary
This proved to be very entertaining and one of the commentators wants to know if this is the best hockey match he's ever seen - what do you think? Tweet your thoughts to @EnglandHockey