GB hockey men scrape draw at Olympics

GB hockey men scrape draw at Olympics
By Eurosport

02/08/2012 at 04:39Updated 02/08/2012 at 05:02

Great Britain's men's hockey team let their half-time lead slip and were lucky to draw 2-2 in a thriller against South Africa.

And defender Iain Lewers – who made his England debut in 2011 – admitted that they were fortunate to draw the match.

“We showed a lot of fighting spirit and we dug in. But I think we were lucky to even pick up a point in that match,” he said.

Ashley Jackson opened the scoring for Britain in an entertaining Group A encounter at the Riverbank Arena courtesy of a trademark drag flick into the top left corner of the goal, giving the South African goalkeeper no chance.

The high intensity pressing game exhibited by Britain in their opening Olympic match, a 4-1 win over Argentina, was missing, but they held their lead at half-time.

South Africa dominated the second half, and eventually made their dominance pay as captain Austin Smith despatched a low drag flick into the bottom right corner with just ten minutes to go.

One goal then became two as South Africa took the lead with five minutes to go, Jonathan Robinson firing an unstoppable shot into the bottom right corner, from the top of the semi-circle.

This sparked Britain into life and they snatched a controversial equaliser with just two minutes left on the clock.

Richard Smith drove a low ball into the area which Jackson appeared to deflect into the net to grab his second.

South Africa weren’t happy with the decision and appealed to the umpire but they had already used their team referral earlier in the game.

After conferring with his colleague, Roel van Eert called for an umpire’s review.

The evidence was inconclusive as to whether Harry Martin had actually touched the ball inside the D, so the goal to Great Britain stood.

Midfielder Glenn Kirkham felt that the team had all too often let the South Africans dictate play, but after the controversial referee decision – to allow Team GB a late goal – he remained grateful about video technology.

“At times in that second half we gave them too much time on the ball, allowed them to increase their play and allowed them back into it,” said Kirkham, who playing in his second Olympics.

“Obviously we would like it to be the correct decision every single time, but the umpires have got a really tough job. The ball’s so quick moving around. You do need that TV help at times.”

"After this performance, I'm pleased with the result and see it as one point gained as opposed to three lost (if Britain had not equalised). We struggled with South Africa's attitude," said British coach Jason Lee.

Australia showed why they are the hot favourites to win the Olympic men's hockey gold when they ripped apart a Spanish side visibly shaken by losing to injury a second top striker in as many games.

The World Champions beat Beijing runners-up Spain 5-0 in a game overshadowed by injury to 34-year-old Pol Amat.

The Spanish striker fell over an Australian player in the 23rd minute. He was led off the field with medical staff holding his arm and taken to hospital.

The Spanish hockey federation later confirmed Amat had dislocated his shoulder and would be out for at least two to three weeks, a serious set-back to the medal ambitions of Spain who were already missing their captain.

Santi Freixa, who denied Australia a place in the Beijing final four years ago by scoring the semi-final's only goal, broke his left arm in the team's 1-1 draw against Pakistan two days earlier.

"The three games without Pol and Santi will be tough for us, but we have to play. We will have to win and reach the semifinals. We will have to," said Spanish goalkeeper Francisco Cortes after the game.

Australia had made a strong start, taking the lead with a well-placed flick by Russell Ford in the 10th minute, followed less than five minutes later by a Matthew Butturini goal from seven metres and Spain never recovered.

Despite encouragement to move forward, the Spanish side, down 3-0 at half time, kept all 11 players in their own half during most of the second 35 minutes of the game and just managed to limit Australia to two more goals.

Australia now has an impressive 11 goals from just two matches and leads Group A with six points. Britain's draw keeps them second in that group. Two teams from each group progress to the semi-finals.

The hosts got off to a strong start when captain Barry Middleton - earning his 100th cap - flicked a ball just wide after a quick break in the fifth minute.