ENGLAND 5 (2) - 2 (0) PAKISTAN
Jonty Clarke 20, 62 (F, F) Shakeel Abbasi 45 (F)
Ashley Jackson 32 (F) Rehan Butt 49 (PC)
Barry Middleton 53, 65 (F, F)

Inspired by the returning Jonty Clarke, England’s men’s hockey team pulled off another excellent victory at the Hero Honda FIH World Cup in Delhi on Thursday as they beat the world’s number seven side Pakistan 5-2. Steely determination and goals from Clarke, Ashley Jackson and captain Barry Middleton helped England recover from 2-2 but England’s celebrations will be heavily subdued after defender Richard Mantell was taken to hospital with a suspected ankle dislocation following a collision with Pakistan’s Muhammad Irfan.

Facing the four times world champions for the first time since a three match series in Cannock last summer, England coach Jason Lee restored Reading forward Jonty Clarke to the bench following his precautionary rest earlier in the week. Dan Fox returned to the stand having made his World Cup debut on Tuesday against South Africa.

The match began in controversial circumstances with England’s Surbiton forward James Tindall having a goal disallowed inside three minutes after Pakistan referred German umpire Christian Blasch’s decision to the video umpire. Ben Hawes’ cross from the right deflected high into the air off the stick of Akhtar Ali and into the circle where Tindall timed his shoulder high volley to perfection. The 26 year old’s baseball-style shot flew into the bottom corner as Pakistan’s defenders immediately appealed to the umpire that it was played above shoulder height. Video umpire Colin Hutchinson from Ireland agreed and the goal was ruled out but England had signalled their intent.

Pakistan had their first sight on James Fair’s goal in the ninth minute after a threaded through pass split the English defence. But for the last minute intervention of Beeston’s Ali Wilson, Fair may have been picking the ball out of the net but the shot deflected off to the side of the pitch and it remained 0-0.

On 11 minutes, another of England’s Surbiton contingent, Richard Alexander, showed his hunger for the game as he stole the ball in the midfield before feeding World Young Player of the Year Ashley Jackson, who held off four Pakistan defenders before he was eventually outmuscled in the circle.

England won their first penalty corner of the game in the 15th minute after good work down the right from Hawes but Richard Mantell’s effort flew wide of the left post. And Hawes was again in the thick of it a minute later, flashing a low hard cross from the right across the face of goal which Richard Alexander narrowly failed to connect with.

Having been in the ascendency for the opening period, England lost defender Richard Smith to a two minute suspension but despite the numerical disadvantage the men in white did not miss a beat. A moment later, England were ahead.

On 20 minutes, Tindall latched onto Ben Hawes’ long aerial pass downfield and with his back to goal he drove a powerful pass across the circle, which was met at the back post by the diving Jonty Clarke. The Reading man, back in the side after missing Tuesday’s win over South Africa with a tight hamstring, launched himself into a full length dive to brilliantly connect with Tindall’s cross and deflect the ball home. 1-0 to England.

Against South Africa, England had exhibited moments of naivety in defence and a break in concentration gave Pakistan’s Rehan Butt an opportunity along the baseline. England’s defence recovered enough to crowd 29 year old at the expense of a penalty corner which Cannock’s Fair saved with his left foot down the middle of the goal.

With Pakistan coming at England there was space to exploit on the counter and Alastair Brogdon looked to capitalise when he broke down the left and cut the ball back to the supporting Ashley Jackson at the top of the circle. Jackson took his shot on the move well but Salman Akbar stuck out a foot and kept it out with the tip of his toe at full stretch.

Pakistan were awarded their second corner on 28 minute after Richard Mantell deflected the ball up onto his teammate Wilson but again Fair was equal to the set piece, saving a powerfully flicked effort to his left. Pakistan fired the rebound wide but subsequently appealed that the ball had hit the foot of England captain Barry Middleton. Video replays were inconclusive and Pakistan lost their right to any more referrals for the remainder of the match.

Things got worse for the men in green three minutes before the break as England’s Dutch duo of Middleton and Jackson combined to put England two up. Middleton’s pass from the top left of the circle appeared to go through two Pakistan defenders on its way to the back post where it was knocked in by Jackson; 2-0 at half time.

England were handed a numerical advantage with just 30 seconds played in the second half as Muhammad Zubair was yellow carded for a deliberate foul on Jackson deep inside Pakistan territory. Two up and with a man advantage England might have crushed the Pakistani spirit there and then but Jackson saw his effort charged down well by Akhtar Ali at the top of the circle and Pakistan responded.

At the other end they won a corner of their own which James Fair again had to keep out, saving the shot with his left glove in front of his face and clearing the danger.
In the pressure that followed, 17 year old Rashid, the tournament’s second youngest player, found himself in space behind the English defence but before he could squeeze off a shot Ashley Jackson put in a telling block to force the ball behind.

Pakistan’s sustained pressure told on 45 minutes as Shakeel Abassi picked the ball up in the inside left channel before going on to pull a goal back. Cutting inside, he took the ball around James Fair on the penalty spot and held off the challenge of Glenn Kirkham before firing the ball into the goal beyond two defenders on the line.

And things went from bad to worse for England when they lost a second goal and lost defender Richard Mantell to what appeared to be an ankle injury at Pakistan’s fourth corner. First Mantell collided with Muhammad Irfam as he advanced from the post as the ball was pulled out. With Mantell on the floor, the ball ended up on the right baseline and was fired back across through clear air to the waiting Rehan Butt, standing where Mantell would have been, to make it 2-2.

England’s disappointment at losing the goal was worsened by the injury to Mantell who was still lying prone in the circle. Replays showed the Reading defender’s right ankle twisting in the collision and after a lengthy delay for treatment Mantell left the field on a stretcher and was transferred straight to hospital.

The incident sparked the game alive and on 50 minutes Mantell’s Reading teammate Iain Mackay was yellow carded for a shove in the midfield.

Three minutes later, England, still a man down, took advantage of a poor piece of goalkeeping from Salman to put them 3-2 up. The experienced goalkeeper mis-kicked his clearance along the left baseline and the persistent Richard Alexander reacted quickest before cutting back to Middleton to score from close range. The goal put England back in control but with Pakistan looking dangerous on every attack it was still very much anyone’s game.

That was until the 62nd minute when Iain Mackay was gifted the ball in the middle of the park and he found Jonty Clarke on the right of the circle. In attempting to cover the pass to Rob Moore at the back post the Pakistan goalkeeper left his near post exposed and Clarke took full advantage, spotting the gap and firing England 4-2 ahead.

And Clarke was involved again in England’s fifth goal, which he created for Middleton to score his second of the game. Spotting his captain’s run across goal, Clarke picked out Middleton in front of the goalkeeper and he added finishing touch to divert it past Salman with just five minutes remaining.

As time counted down, the match took on a more frenzied, end-to-end style but with neither side able to create another clear cut chance England ran out 5-2 winners, a fitting response from Mantell’s teammates who were clearly upset at losing their inspirational colleague.

Clarke’s return to the side and his contribution to such a superb result earned him the man of the match award from the organisers.

England manager Andy Halliday said afterwards that the team’s management were delighted with the performance, particularly in the final 20 minutes of the game. “In the first half we took all that Pakistan threw at us and scored two cracking counter attacking goals,” he said. “In the second half, Pakistan battled back into it. And then we lost Rich. In that phase of the game they put us under intense pressure and to battle back like we did after losing a key player was absolutely outstanding.”

The result gives England three wins from their opening three matches and ensures they go into Saturday’s fourth Pool B match against India top of the Pool.

Earlier in the day Australia ran out 12-0 victors over South Africa, setting a World Cup record in the process.

England’s match against India gets underway at 15:05 GMT on Saturday 8 March.

At the time of writing, the full extent of Richard Mantell’s injury is still being assessed at hospital.
England has a world ranking of sixth, one place higher than Pakistan in seventh.
The last time the two sides met at a World Cup was in the match for fifth place at the 2006 World Cup in Monchengladbach where a late goal from Martin Jones gave England a 1-0 win.
The top two teams in each pool progress to the World Cup semi finals on Thursday 11 March in Delhi. Teams finishing below second in a pool play for their final classification in a cross over match against the team finishing in that position in the opposite pool.
Photograph Credit: Grant Treeby/EHB