A lightning start and second half grit ensured Great Britain’s men took the honours at the tri-nations Olympic warm-up tournament in Santander on Monday evening. First half goals from Reading’s Jonty Clarke and HGC’s Barry Middleton fired GB into an early lead and although Pau Quemada halved the deficit before half time, Great Britain rode out 2-1 victors, winning the tournament in the process following their 3-1 victory over India on Saturday.
Head Coach Jason Lee played his 16 man Olympic squad in the match, which saw Surbiton forward Matt Daly make his 50th appearance for Great Britain. Afterwards Lee said he was pleased with the outcome: “We started brightly and there were some nice signs but as you’d expect Spain stepped it up after going two nil down. But we toughed it out and the players showed some real grit in the second half.”
Satisfied with his side’s preparation going into London 2012, Lee added, “We’ve been playing on the same blue and pink turf here as we will be at the Olympics and we’ve had vaguely British weather too. With opponents like India, who are tenth in the world, and Spain fifth we’ve had high quality practice. When you include our practice game against the Dutch recently we’ve now won three in a row so we’re building a winning momentum.”
Great Britain began positively and having roared into the ascendancy from the first whistle it came as no surprise when Reading forward Jonty Clarke gave GB the lead in the 11th minute. A through ball from Ashley Jackson was laid off first time by Surbiton’s Rob Moore and Clarke smashed the ball home from the top of the circle to make it 1-0.
The partisan Spanish crowd was silenced again in the 19th minute when captain Barry Middleton doubled Great Britain’s lead with a deft back post deflection that left goalkeeper Francisco Cortes with no chance following good approach play from Reading’s Nick Catlin.
GB were worthy of their two goal lead, although Cannock goalkeeper James Fair was called into action to keep out two penalty corners diving to his right. Four minutes from half time Fair was beaten by Pau Quemada’s penalty corner drag flick that flew high into the roof of the net.
As they had the first, the visitors began the second half brightly but as Spain found their grip, Great Britain’s defence did well to keep out four more penalty corners. Despite their defensive duties, GB looked dangerous on the break. Surbiton’s Matt Daly narrowly failed to connect with a cross from Hampstead & Westminster’s Dan Fox before moments later East Grinstead’s Ashley Jackson saw his reverse stick shot saved by Cortes.
Spain looked the more threatening side in the closing stages but Great Britain held out to take the three points and with them, the tournament title.
Great Britain’s men will remain in Spain until Thursday, where they will train. The team will enter the Olympic Village on Sunday. Spain and India meet on Wednesday afternoon in the tournament’s concluding fixture.