A last minute strike from England’s Simon Mantell secured a dramatic 2-1 win and ensured late heartbreak for India for the second consecutive game in this World Cup.
England had led through Mark Gleghorne’s first half penalty corner but just minutes after the East Grinstead man had fired England in front Dharamvir Singh levelled the scores. It remained that way until Mantell’s intervention with just 90 seconds left on the clock.
The game took a little time to get going and it was India who looked the more likely to force a break through. Their mesmerising skills and movement off the ball were giving England’s defence plenty to think about. Terry Walsh’s side forced the first penalty corner of the match in the 11th minute after a video referral. The ball was not cleanly injected and Rupinder Singh had to adjust before firing his shot in which crashed into George Pinner’s pads. Another corner was awarded and it caused a great deal of drama. Rupinder’s fierce flick hit Dan Fox running out and the England No27 was forced to leave the field on a stretcher. Already missing Iain Lewers with a dead leg from their back line it was a real relief when the Holcombe man re-joined the fray minutes later.
India’s attacking plans seemed to centre on getting the ball wide and looking for crosses into the D from either flank. It was from one such attack that Akashdeep Singh had a good chance but shot just wide. With 13 minutes left in the half England created their first clear cut chance. Ashley Jackson drew the defence from a free-hit and dinked a lovely pass inside to David Condon. His instant shot forced a good save out of goalkeeper PR Sreejesh. At the other end Mandeep Singh blazed another good chance over the bar and it looked like it might end up goalless at the break.
With nine minutes left to half time however that deadlock was broken. England forced a penalty corner which Mark Gleghorne ripped into the top corner giving Sreejesh, his teammate from the Hockey India League, no chance and making it 1-0 to England.
The lead didn’t last long, however and Dharamvir Singh’s squeezed shot on the turn found its way through a crowded D and past Pinner to make it 1-1 at the break.
The second half had plenty of drama as both sides hunted for that all-important second goal. Six minutes after the break India thought they had a great chance as they were awarded a penalty stroke for a tackle by Gleghorne. England referred claiming the tackle was clean and their instincts were proved right as the decision was overturned.
India continued to cause problems with their direct crosses into the D but England’s defence stood firm. Sardar Singh weaved his way through two tackles on the edge of the D and slapped it at goal but Gleghorne got a stick to the shot to divert it over the bar. Mandeep Singh was well kept out by a smart stop from George Pinner as the tension started to ramp up in the dying minutes.
With three minutes remaining, England won a penalty corner. Ashley Jackson, who had not flicked so far in the tournament due to a shoulder injury stepped up and played a perfect pass into the D for the diving Fox to deflect. Sreejesh made a stunning save with the ball coming off his faceguard but Mantell pounced and hit a reverse stick shot past the goalkeeper to send England and their fans wild.
England’s hero, Simon Mantell told The Top of the D:
“I think we feel relief more than anything. We had a fair amount of pressure and a good amount of possession. We didn’t create loads of chances but there were enough that we felt confident we could score the goals to win the game. Perhaps we left it a little bit late, though!”
“You don’t have time to think, the ball just dropped and I knew I had to get a good connection on it and fortunately it went in. That might the most important goal I’ve scored for England. Goals at the end of a game when you’re level always feel important. The main thing is the three points, though. It was crucial we got the win.”
England’s next game is against Malaysia on Thursday. Keep checking TheTopoftheD.com for all the latest updates from the Rabobank Hockey World Cup.