Clinical Australia see off England in Azlan Shah Cup

England v Australia Sultan Azlan Shah 2018
Australia 4 (3)
Wotherspoon (FG, 15), Govers (FG, 19), Kleinschmidt (FG, 28), Sharp (FG, 39)

England 1 (1)
Roper (FG, 25)

England endured a disappointing start to the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup as they were defeated by a ruthless Australian side in Malaysia.

Goals from Dylan Wotherspoon, Blake Govers, Aaron Kleinschmidt and Lochlan Sharp saw off Bobby Crutchley’s team as the Kookaburras’ clinical finishing showed why they are ranked number one in the world.

Phil Roper’s superb determination saw him drag his side back into the game when 2-0 down as he barged through three defenders on his way into the circle before tucking the loose ball into the goal.

But that was to be as good as it got for England, who had plenty of chances themselves but were repeatedly denied by an inspired Tyler Lovell.

Speaking after the match head coach Bobby Crutchley said: "I was actually pleased with a lot of our game, there were encouraging signs but we were punished for some basic errors in defence. A team like Australia will always take advantage in the attacking third.

"We need to cut out these errors and build on some of the quality we showed on the ball. We look forward to the challenge of India tomorrow."

Following a 50 minute delay due to torrential rain, Roper fashioned the first clear chance as he nudged a sixth minute effort just off target before Chris Griffiths fired one shot on the turn wide and saw another saved.

Australia then made England pay for those misses as Wotherspoon tucked the ball past George Pinner in the final minute of the first quarter after a great run down the right by Eddie Ockenden, before Govers smartly deflected Flynn Ogilvie’s arrowing shot home in the 19th minute. 

Roper’s impressive effort halved the deficit in the 25th minute, shortly after Sam Ward showed incredible athleticism to fashion a shot whilst on the floor, only to be denied by Lovell.

However the Kookaburras restored their lead two minutes before half-time as Kleinschmidt did well to steer a bouncing ball into the net after an onrushing Harry Gibson had smartly denied Tom Craig.

England almost immediately reduced the advantage once again but Henry Weir’s wicked cross was just diverted out of captain Ian Sloan’s path by Ockenden while Mark Gleghorne saw a penalty corner saved by Lovell.

Pinner was rather unlucky in the 39th minute as his save to deny Wotherspoon fell kindly to Sharp who smashed home Australia’s fourth, although he did brilliantly to stop Australia’s number 26 once again just a minute later.

With the game all-but-gone Liam Ansell showed great spirit in the final quarter, going on a number of mazy runs and winning a 56th minute penalty corner. However Lovell was on hand once again to keep out Gleghorne’s effort and then a Ward flick in the penultimate minute of the game.

England are next in action tomorrow against India at 0800 GMT in a game that will be shown on the FIH’s YouTube channel.

England Starting XI: Pinner (GK), Weir, Martin, Griffiths, Sloan (C), Ward, Gleghorne, Roper, Middleton, Creed, Sanford

Subs: Gibson (GK), Dixon, Goodfield, Ansell, Condon, Gall