Gold Coast, Australia: The men’s hockey Semi-Finals are set for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, with Australia taking on England and New Zealand playing India on Friday night at the Gold Coast Hockey Centre.
Australia’s 2-1 win against Oceania rivals New Zealand plus India’s dramatic 4-3 victory over England confirmed the Semi-Finals line-up for the men’s event. Australia finished top of Pool A, New Zealand second while in Pool B India finished top with England second.
Another capacity crowd turned out to witness the Trans-Tasman derby between Australia’s Kookaburras and New Zealand’s Black Sticks.
Both teams were in fine form going into this match having won each of their Pool matches so far.
And it was free-scoring New Zealand who should have taken the lead in the 18th minute, but Hugo Inglis went wide after picking up a penalty corner rebound.
Australia’s Kookaburras made them pay shortly afterwards as Jacob Whetton squeezed in a shot from the baseline beyond New Zealand’s Richard Joyce, the Kiwi goalkeeper disappointed to have lost a goal at his near post.
Both teams battled hard looking for opportunities, however it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the match provided more goals.
Australia’s Tom Wickham found Trent Mitton in the circle who deflected home to double their lead in the 56th minute.
New Zealand did not give up and their hard work, evident throughout this match, was rewarded in the 58th minute when Cory Bennett rocketed the ball into the Australian net from a penalty corner.
This was too little too late for the Black Sticks however as Australia went on to win 2-1 and set up a Semi-Final against England.
India’s match against England was also crucial in terms of determining the Semi-Final line-ups, with the winner taking top spot in Pool B.
With the stakes high, both teams played at an incredible tempo – with end to end action delighting a large contingent of English and Indian spectators.
England took the lead in the 16th minute as a quick break led to David Condon scoring a stunning reverse stick strike past Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh.
Whilst England looked the better team in the opening stages, momentum swung India’s way in the 32nd minute.
Gurjant Singh intercepted a pass from Ian Sloan before Mandeep Singh set up Manpreet Singh to slot the ball past England goalkeeper Harry Gibson.
After the break, India maintained a lot of possession but couldn’t find the killer touch to penetrate England’s strong defence.
Their persistence paid off in the 50th minute however as Rupinder Pal Singh edged India ahead 2-1 as his deflected shot from a penalty corner ended up in the back of the net.
England responded within minutes as Liam Ansell scored his first goal of the event from a penalty corner to draw level. Sam Ward then took England into the lead again in the 55th minute, also through a well worked penalty corner.
With the prospect of avoiding world number one ranked Australia in the Semi-Final, India rallied. After removing their goalkeeper the reigning Asian champions levelled with just under two minutes left on the clock. Luck was on Varun Kumar’s side as his penalty corner was deflected beyond the English goalkeeper.
India were now in the driving seat and as they continued to pressure, Mandeep Singh connected with a searing strike into the circle to knock it high into the English net.
Seconds later the final hooter sounded as India celebrated their 4-3 victory which set them up with a Semi-Final meeting with New Zealand’s Black Sticks on Friday.
The other men’s games of the day determined the classification matches. Pakistan and Malaysia played out an exciting 1-1 draw, with Shafqat Rasool scoring for Malaysia before Ramadan Rosli equalised for Pakistan.
This result saw Malaysia finish in third position in Pool B and set up a final match against Scotland in the 5-6th classification match. Pakistan meanwhile will take on Canada to determine seventh and eighth place.
South Africa and Canada rounded out the day’s action, with the reigning African champions recording their first win of the event, 2-0 through goals from Ryan Julius and Reza Rosenberg.
Despite their win they still finished in fifth position in in Pool A, which means that they will now play Wales to decide who finishes ninth and 10th.
Matches in both the women’s and men’s hockey events at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games will be taking place until 14 April. For the full event schedule, click here.
For Gold Coast 2018 hockey tickets, click here.
Photograph: Sam Ward, England (World Sport pics (c))