Great Britain downed by Australia at Olympic Games

Sam Ward goes close against Australia. Credit  FRANK UIJLENBROEK1

Australia 2 (0)
Aran Zalweski 50 (FG)
Jacob Whetton 55 (FG)

Great Britain 1 (0)
Ashley Jackson 58 (PC)

Full match details can be found here.

Great Britain were left facing a must win game in their final pool match against Spain after an agonizing 2-1 defeat at the hands of Australia at the Olympic Games. Goals from Aran Zalewski and Jacob Whetton sunk Bobby Crutchley’s. A late Ashley Jackson penalty corner wasn’t enough to save a point leaving GB with a nervy final match to come.  

The game started at a terrific pace as both sides looked to impose themselves on the contest. The first clear chance fell to Australia. Former Wimbledon striker Blake Govers found space and hammered a backhand shot at goal that George Pinner did well to repel with his pads. Australia’s intensity ensured they started to have the better of the game and before long they won a penalty corner. Govers took the responsibility but Dan Fox was out in a flash to charge down brilliantly. With the final few seconds to go to the break the Kookaburras almost forced the ball in via a crowded circle but David Ames emerged with the ball and it remained all square going into the second quarter.

The first action of the second quarter was a fine smothering save from Pinner to deny Glenn Turner. Bobby Crutchley’s side grew into the game and won their first penalty corner. Ashley Jackson played the pass to Harry Martin but his deflection flew just over the bar. Jackson and Captain Barry Middleton started to grow in influence and GB forced another penalty corner just minutes later. This time Mark Gleghorne slipped the ball to Simon Mantell. His shot beat Andrew Charter but went agonizingly wide of the target and it was anybody’s game going into the second half.   

The second half picked up where the first left off. Fantastic determination from Middleton almost freed David Condon but he couldn’t quite escape the defender and Australia cleared. Pinner made a smart stop from a Chris Ciriello penalty corner. It was end to end play with both sides knowing the first goal was vital. Turner squandered a great chance to give his team the lead before Ward did brilliantly to manufacture an opportunity which Charter somehow blocked with his shoulder. Right on the stroke of quarter time the Kookaburras thought they had taken the lead. A penalty corner was charged down but Ciriello lashed the rebound at goal. Pinner got something on it, turning it onto the post before Middleton completed the clearance to the disbelief of the Australians.   

Five minutes into the final quarter with GB down to ten men, Australia got their noses in front. Zalewski turned in Daniel Beale’s cross from close range. GB steeled themselves and despite fighting back they found themselves 2-0 down five minutes later. A swift break left Iain Lewers facing four attackers. The ball was slipped to Turner who touched it goalwards before Whetton made sure, slamming in from on the line.  With two minutes to go Crutchley’s team got a lifeline with a textbook penalty corner goal from Jackson. Throwing everything forwards GB almost rescued the game when Nick Catlin’s shot was cleared off the line by Matthew Swann but despite the late charge Australia hung on to take the win.

George Pinner, Great Britain Goalkeeper

“It was frustrating to lose. We came out wanting three points and we nearly salvaged a draw at the very end there. It is disappointing but it is the first time in this tournament we have really put up a proper performance and that is something we can build on going into our last game against Spain where we should know what we will have to do to get through."

“It was a classic game against Australia where it was pretty tight. They have some good players and had some good chances but we managed to keep them out. It was disappointing that they managed to get their noses ahead when we were down to ten and then they got a lucky break when it fell to them in the circle but we rallied well and were unlucky not to get something from the game."

“We will look to go out and get the win against Spain and hopefully that should be enough to take us through.”

Barry Middleton, Great Britain Captain:

“Unfortunately we didn’t nick a goal at the right time like they did. At 2-1 down at the end we played with real calmness and composure to make another good chance right at the end. We always trust in our game that we will get another chance whatever is happening. We got it and it just didn’t quite go and sometimes that happens. We played well and defended but it is just frustrating with the result."

“We knew coming into the Spain game, wherever we were, we would want to win it so this doesn’t change much, it just means we need to do our jobs right. We are showing we are in the right place. We have a day off tomorrow which is nice so we will go away, have a good rest and come back as strong as we possibly can for Spain.”

Great Britain’s next match is Friday 12 August at 21:00 vs. Spain, live on BBC Sport.