Bhubaneswar, Dec 6:
England stunned reigning world champions Australia while Belgium pulled up an exciting win against Pakistan on the opening day of the Hero Hockey Champions Trophy at Kalinga Stadium in Odisha’s capital city today.
In the first match of the day, England defeated Australia 3-1. Debutant Sam Ward scored twice in his England debut with Alastair Brogdon adding another to secure a deserved win for the world number 5.
England had the better start into this game with Brogdon scoring the opening goal in the 6th minute. He won possession in the circle and defeated Kookaburra goalie Andrew Charter with a powerful backhand stroke.
While England was the dominating side in the first quarter, the world champions got stronger in the second quarter. Australia produced a row of penalty corners but could not capitalise on the opportunities.
However, England doubled their lead against the run of play. Debutant Sam Ward (27’) smashed the ball into the empty Kookaburra goal after the ball bounced off the post. The 23-year old got called up into the team last Saturday after Harry Martin had to pull out due to injury.
The third quarter saw an equal match with chances either side but the goalkeepers Charter and George Pinner (ENG) kept clean sheets. Australia raised the pace in the last quarter but the English defence stayed firm until Chris Ciriello (54’) flicked in a penalty corner to bring Australia on the scoreboard.
Soon after, Australia failed to net from a row of promising opportunities. Instead it was Ward again, scoring from a fast counter-attack to make it 3-1 with three minutes to go.
In the second match, Thomas Briels’ delightful third quarter goal helped Belgium defeat Pakistan by 2-1 goal.
The Belgians had the half time lead when Tanguy Cosyns (12th minute) scrambled home at the right post after a left wing attack spun invitingly for him.
They had the guts of the play from there on, creating eight circle entries, but were unable to break through the Pakistan defences. Tom Boon did draw a top save from Imran Butt from a high corner two minutes before the break to keep the margin at the minimum.
Pakistan improved markedly in the second half and were back on terms when a penalty corner flick hit Loick Luypaert on the body. After anumpires consultation, a penalty stroke was awarded which team captain Muhammad Imran duly converted, wrong-footing Vincent Vanasch.
But Briels restored the lead in stunning style, finishing off with a delicate flip after Tom Boon eliminated a couple of defenders with some lovely stickwork in the 43rd minute and they held on in reasonable comfort to the lead for all the points on day one.
Commenting on their win, Belgium Captain John-John Dohmen said, “We are really happy with the result as Pakistan is a really good side. We did not play great but we did not play badly but we just need to play together a bit more in the next game.”
“Tomorrow (against Australia) will be a great game for us. Playing the world champions who I think are the best team here – even though they lost today. They might be a bit angry to win this game.”
Speaking on the team’s performance, Pakistan Coach Shahnaz Sheikh said, “I am very happy with the performance of the boys as after a long gap we played against a European team. It was an even game today and it was satisfying in the manner that we countered their game. We just lost it by one goal and this I think because of the inexperience on our side. We will come back strong in our next outing against England”. (IANS)