GB draw opening game in Ipoh

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Great Britain’s men found themselves pegged back in the stifling final stages of their opening match at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia as the hosts scored twice in the final three minutes to draw 3-3.  Great Britain had stormed into a 3-1 lead at the break thanks to goals from East Grinstead pair Glenn Kirkham and Ashley Jackson and one from Surbiton’s Rob Moore.  And there were further chances to extend the lead in the second period before Malaysia hit back late.

Things began well for Great Britain, who welcomed back Surbiton’s Matt Daly to the side after a long term injury kept him sidelined for much of the year. 

An early clash of heads saw Loughborough Students’ Richard Smith receive treatment before Great Britain hit their stride with Glenn Kirkham weaving his way into the circle after good work by Hampstead & Westminster’s Dan Fox on the right.  Kirkham worked his space well to fire home the opening goal as GB’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup campaign got underway.

Cheered on by the Sultan himself and a partisan crowd on the blue and pink turf in Ipoh, the hosts fought back, winning a penalty corner that Azlan Mizron, the corner injector, flicked beyond James Fair as the ball came back to him from the top of the circle.

Ten minutes later GB went ahead again.  Ashley Jackson will not have scored many simpler goals in his career than the one he hit low and hard to put GB 2-1 up midway through the half.  Finding himself in acres of space after being played through the heart of the Malaysian defence the East Grinstead midfielder took time to pick his spot before lashing home low into the bottom left corner. It was Jackson’s 70th international goal.

Surbiton’s Rob Moore then threatened as he too found space at the top of the circle but his shot was palmed over the crossbar.  Two minutes later though Moore had his goal as he executed a well struck volley that flew beyond the Malaysian goalkeeper into the net for 3-1. 

Before the break, there was still time for Jackson to test the goalkeeper from a penalty corner but the 24 year old’s flick was cleared well.

Cannock goalkeeper James Fair was called upon early in the second half as he kept out an early penalty corner before a British onslaught began.  GB captain Barry Middleton came closest to extending his side’s lead when he robbed a defender in the circle before attempting a superb chip that beat the goalkeeper, only to come back off the crossbar.

There were further opportunities for Daly and Jackson, both of whom came close, before Malaysia’s fight back began.  The hosts won a brace of penalty corners, both of which GB survived, only to see Faisal Saari score with a sublime reverse stick shot with just three minutes remaining. 

The match seemed to turn on that goal and with the crowd and momentum behind them Malaysia netted again just 60 seconds later. A bouncing ball found its way through the British defence and Saari made no mistake to equalise from point blank range.

Afterwards, Head Coach Jason Lee said, “We’re pleased with how we played in the first half and we had enough chances in the15 minutes after half time to put the game beyond Malaysia but as expected in the dying minutes the heat became a factor.  In the end the game was five minutes too long for us.”

Great Britain’s next match is on Sunday against India, whom they recently beat twice at the Visa International Invitational Olympic Test Event. 

British sports fans have another opportunity to cheer on the GB women’s team at the forthcoming Investec London Cup in Chiswick from 5-10 June.  Tickets are still available by visiting www.greatbritainhockey.co.uk/investeclondoncup.

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