Great Britain got their FIH Pro League campaign off to a winning start in an extraordinary match with Spain. Danny Kerry’s side trailed 4-2 at half time but three goals in seven second-half minutes turned the match on its head and despite a late flurry of penalty corners for the hosts, Great Britain clung on to win 6-5.
Spain opened the scoring with a nicely-taken backhand by Xavi Lleonart in the second minute but Great Britain were on terms sixty seconds later as Adam Dixon lashed home a beautifully struck shot on the turn.
Great Britain were then blitzed by a three goal burst from the hosts with Marc Bolto, Diego Arana and Albert Beltran putting them in a very commanding position after just 11 minutes. Zach Wallace’s squeezed shot reduced the arrears but Danny Kerry’s side still had a mountain to climb at the half way point.
“To go four goals down, it would have been very easy for us to fold and Spain to put the game to bed.” Dixon told BT Sport after the match.
“It’s testament to our character to make sure we can come back from those situations. We stuck to our system of play; we knew we weren’t good enough in the first quarter. We knew we needed to grind the result out.” he added.
And come back, they did.
Mark Gleghorne rifled home a powerful penalty corner, beating Mario Garin all ends up to make it 4-3 and with the momentum firmly shifting to Great Britain, Dixon scored his second with a well-taken rebound after Sam Ward’s penalty corner was saved. With Spain reeling, Phil Roper got in on the scoring with a superb individual effort to put the visitors in the lead, 5-4.
With three minutes to go, Ward manufactured a shot from on his knees which was cleared off the line by the defender, only for David Condon following in to gleefully volley home the sixth.
In the opening match of the Pro League a week ago, Spain trailed world champions Belgium by two goals with two minutes left. They drew level with a heroic late charge and won on a shootout on that occasion. And when Alvaro Iglesias made it 6-5 the home crowd must’ve thought lightning would strike twice.
However, despite a flurry of full time penalty corners, the last of which was repelled by Ward on the line, followed by a magnificent recovery save from George Pinner, Great Britain held on and took the win.
“I’m delighted for the lads, as well as the staff.” Head Coach Danny Kerry said afterwards.
“We were rusty in the first half, but after that we played with both brains and skill. I’m sure it made for excellent viewing in our very first Pro League game. Now we go onwards!”
Great Britain’s next game is against New Zealand in Christchurch on Friday, 8 February.