An expectant and vociferous home crowd was treated to a splendid first half performance from the Great Britain men as they kept alive their hopes of qualifying for Sunday’s final with a 4-2 win over India.
The hosts, like their female counterparts got off to a dream start, after four minutes, Ashley Jackson’s quick restart found Rob Moore, the Surbiton man cut inside his marker and sent a searing reverse-stick shot into the top corner, giving Sreejesh Parattu Raveendran in the India goal no chance of making a save.
It didn’t take long for Great Britain to double their lead, although if the first goal was out of the top drawer, there was no little fortune about the second: An excellent run by Simon Mantell saw the Reading forward reach the baseline, his cross was looking for Ashley Jackson, but was diverted into the top corner by the unfortunate Sardar Singh’s foot.
From the restart Jackson went close as Great Britain threatened to run riot, this time Raveendran did well to narrow the angle before Mark Pearn blazed the rebound over the bar.
On 14 minutes Jackson won a penalty corner. The set piece as not executed properly, allowing India to break and win a penalty corner of their own. VR Raghunath stepped up and sent an accurate drag flick past James Fair to halve the deficit.
This sparked a brief period of Indian pressure with Chandi looking threatening, first drawing a save from Fair at his near post and then sliding a dangerous cross right across the face of goal with teammates unable to apply the finishing touch.
On 24 minutes Great Britain struck again: A bouncing ball into the D from Wimbledon’s Ben Hawes evaded the defence and found Jackson. As the goalkeeper advanced, Jackson appeared to mis-control the pass, his touch deflecting the ball into the bottom corner to make it 3-1. 2 minutes later Jackson struck again in slightly more orthodox fashion. Some excellent 3-D skills on the baseline from Jonty Clarke created space for a cross which Jackson coolly lifted over the goalkeeper.
James Tindall almost made it five as his shot on the turn was well saved by Raveendran, keeping the score respectable at half time.
India came out for the second half full of attacking intent, Tushar Khander went close to getting a vital touch on a cross and Fair saved well from Chandi.
It took Great Britain a while to adjust to the early barrage of chances, before Mark Pearn’s shot was saved by the goalkeeper, who was up quickly to keep out Jackson’s follow up with a fine right-foot save.
On 47 minutes, India won themselves another penalty corner. This time Sandeep Singh took responsibility sending an absolute rocket into the roof of the net, silencing the crowd who were in awe at the speed of the Indian defender’s drag flick.
As with the first Indian goal, this seemed to prompt something of an uncertain period for the hosts who were indebted to some excellent defending from Richard Smith and a fantastic save from Fair, high to his left to keep out another Singh drag flick.
Having weathered the storm, the home side tried to notch a fifth to put the game beyond doubt, James Tindall’s flick from a well-worked penalty corner was kept out by Raveendran again.
There were to be no further goals, and in the end, despite a few nervy moments along the way, Great Britain gave the fans what they came for and ran out worthy winners.
The star of the show for many was Ashley Jackson, the East Grinstead player undoubtedly grew in influence as the game wore on, providing a valuable link between defence and attack as well as posing a goal threat. Richard Alexander, too approached the game with his usually energy and vigour.
With the sound of the band still ringing in their ears, the hosts now turn their attentions to Australia in a winner-takes-all game to determine who will join Germany in Sunday’s final.