Great Britain one step closer to Rio

Chris Griffiths and Mikey Hoare celebrate 490 x 290

Great Britain 2 (2)
Chris Griffiths 4 (FG)
Alastair Brogdon 9 (FG)

Pakistan 1 (0)
Muhammad Umar Bhutta 48 (FG)

First half strikes from Chris Griffiths and Alastair Brogdon were enough to seal Great Britain’s place in the semi-finals after a hard fought 2-1 win over Pakistan. Griffiths’ spectacular goal in the fourth minute ensured the perfect start before Brogdon’s third of the tournament doubled the lead five minutes later. Although Muhammad Umar Bhutta pulled one back to ensure a nervous final 12 minutes, Bobby Crutchley’s side held off the late challenge to set up a semi-final clash with Australia.

In an eventful opening quarter, Great Britain took the lead with a stunning goal from East Grinstead’s Chris Griffiths. Iain Lewers played the ball into the circle, picking out the No25. The angle seemed to be against him but he rifled a blistering shot in off the cross bar giving the goalkeeper no chance. It was 2-0 just five minutes later. Again Lewers played the pass into the circle, this time finding Ashley Jackson. His upright backhand across the goal set up Brogdon who applied the finish at the far post for his third of the tournament.

Pakistan forced their first penalty corner in the closing stages of the quarter but despite a neat move Muhammad Irfan’s flick went wide of the target. Great Britain also won their first penalty corner inside the final two minutes but Mark Gleghorne’s flick was charged down by the runner and it stayed 2-0 at quarter time.

Bobby Crutchley’s side had another penalty corner in the opening moments of the second quarter. The move broke down and Pakistan counterattacked. The ball found its way to Ali Shan but his backhand strike flew over the bar. Sheikh Shahnaz’s side forced another penalty corner but the danger was snuffed out by Dan Fox charging out bravely to block the shot ensuring it stayed 2-0 at the half time break.

Inside the opening moments of the second half Imran Butt was called into action to clear a cross from Nick Catlin with Griffiths closing in and then at the other end George Pinner was called upon for the first time in the match to clear a long pass into the circle as Pakistan tried to build their way back into the contest. It was a scrappy third quarter as temperatures soared and the teams grappled for control of the game. There were no more chances and it remained 2-0 going into the final quarter.

With 12 minutes remaining, Pakistan clawed one back. The ball found its way to the baseline and was cut back to Muhammad Umar Bhutta whose first effort was saved well by Pinner. The No8 forced the rebound in to halve the deficit and give his side hope.

Henry Weir was shown a late yellow card for a foul, putting Great Britain down to ten men for five of the remaining ten minutes of the match. Pakistan almost took advantage moments later. Muhammad Waqas found himself in space on the right side of the circle but Pinner stood strong to see off the No7’s shot as GB came under immense pressure. David Condon and Sam Ward linked brilliantly down the left side on the counterattack as they hunted a third goal to seal it, but Ward sliding in couldn’t quite get the touch on the cross. Despite a number of passes into the circle late on Great Britain’s defence stood strong to see the game out to reach the semi-finals.

Quotes – Great Britain Captain Barry Middleton

“We made it tough in the end. I thought we played very well first half, we were in control and probably could’ve scored a couple more. When you’re only 2-0 up against a team like Pakistan who commit a lot of people forward it always looks close but we defended very well. I know they put a lot of balls into the circle but we felt quite comfortable. We were pretty calm at the back."

Great Britain Head Coach – Bobby Crutchley

“It was job done really. I’m pleased we got through. There were a lot of key performances in the team and we showed we can work hard when the games get tight.

We started well and dominated early but the conditions meant we couldn’t keep up the intensity and didn’t take the game away from them which made it tight. Having said that they didn’t create a lot of chances and I felt we were the better side. Without doubt the conditions played a part, but even in the second half we created the better chances. A good start was important but we did well even though they came back strongly.

We’ll prepare well for Australia. It’ll be a tough game but we’re looking forward to it. We played them a couple of times recently and had a win and a loss. We showed we’re capable of beating them and we’ll be hoping to do it again.”

Don't forget you can see Bobby Crutchley's England side in action this summer as World Class international hockey returns to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the Unibet EuroHockey Championships 2015. Details are available on the tournament website.