England send Ireland to their third defeat following a 4-1 victory over their neighbours in the 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Men’s International Hockey Tournament at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium today.
The Irish, ranked World No 10, had so much to work on against the English in this match after two consecutive defeats. England’s best was a 1-1 draw against World No 6 India after losing 4-1 to World Champions Australia last Saturday.
England have now pooled four points from three matches while Ireland continue to sit at the basement winless.
Both teams have played each other a record 11 times since the 1908 Olympic Games. England won eight times and drew once. Their last outing was at the 2017 European championships with England edging out Ireland 2-1.
England’s forwards settled early in the game. Mark Gleghorne swept the ball past goalkeeper Jamie Carr in the 10th minute but the goal was disallowed for an infringement following a video referral review.
The English, who had failed to capitalise on four penalty corners that came their way, slowly bit into the Irish defence, tearing apart their defensive structure to lead 1-0 through Barry Middleton’s 15th minute field goal effort.
Ireland earned their first penalty corner in the 19th minute when Matthew Bell was deemed to have been obstructed by Ollie Willars but could do nothing out of it.
England continued the thrust in the third quarter and doubled the lead in the 37th minute. Phil Roper sent a powerful shot into the circle and Sam Ward steered the ball into goal.
Julian Dale, however, reduced the deficit for Ireland two minutes later from their second penalty corner, packing the ball straight past goalkeeper George Penner.
Ward, who was named Man of the Match, extended England’s lead to 3-1 in the 51st minute with a field goal strike and Middleton added to the Irish misery by netting the fourth goal in similar fashion in the 59th minute.
The Irish earned a fifth penalty corner with just eight seconds remaining towards the end of the match but once again could not change their fortune.
It was England’s first victory in three matches – a result that could place them in a better position of finishing among the top four teams in the table standings.
WHAT THEY SAID:
Bobby Crutchley (England Head Coach)
I thought we played very well against a good Irish side. We dominated most parts of the game and I am very pleased. We will improve as the tournament goes on and we will continue to do so. It helps a lot when you got a better game and stay on top with a two-goal lead. We could have scored a few more but we just missed out on them.
If we can get two more wins I think we can be in a better position to stay really on top and obviously we are going to focus on Argentina’s match tomorrow.
They are on top and it will be a tough game. We must stop their penalty corners, but I am confident the way we are playing we can beat them tomorrow.
Most important is we don’t give them a lot of opportunities in penalty corners. Our defending must be astute. We look forward to the challenge.
Craig Fulton (Ireland Head Coach)
I think with 10 minutes to go we are still in the game and then they went to 3-1. That was tough. But I thought we played well for 45 minutes.
There have been some great improvements. We still need to finish well in our chances. We made one or two collective mistakes at the back which is hurting us, but we are learning.
We have a tough game against Australia tomorrow and another one after that (India). This is a healthy environment to learn from the games before and what’s gone and try to make a big improvement.