SOUTH AFRICA 2 (0)
Austin Smith 60’ (PC)
Jonathan Robinson 64’ (F)
GREAT BRITAIN 2 (1)
Ashley Jackson 14’ 68’ (PC, F)
In Great Britain’s second game of their Olympic campaign they took on South Africa, who coming into the tournament were the lowest ranked side at twelfth. It was a hard fought encounter, which saw both sides come out with a share of the spoils at 2-2. The result means that Great Britain are left second in their pool to Australia who had earlier demolished Spain 5-0.
The first half saw a solitary goal from East Grinstead’s Ashley Jackson as he fired home an unstoppable drag flick before the break. In the second half South Africa hit back twice through Austin Smith and Jonathan Robinson before a deft deflection from Jackson pulled the score line back to even at 2-2.
Today’s match marked Great Britain Captain Barry Middleton’s 100th cap for Great Britain. Middleton now overtakes 1988 gold medal winning hockey legend Sean Kerly in the list of all time GB cap winners and moves him to sixth overall.
Speaking after the game, East Grinstead’s Middleton said, “We probably let ourselves down a little bit with the performance most of the game. I think if we had really gone for it like we did in the last few minutes and shown the determination of that through the whole game I think we’d have probably won it. It was good character from us to come back and nick a draw but it’s disappointing we didn’t steal it at the end.”
“The tournament is seven games and I think there’ll be spells where we do go up and down. If this is our worst game of the tournament and we take a draw out of it I don’t think that’s the worst thing.”
After a quiet opening spell to the match, Great Britain were given an opportunity to open the scoring in the fifth minute following a quick-fire three man counter-attack from inside their own half. Jackson found his East Grinstead club team-mate Middleton unmarked in the circle, but the forward struck his shot agonisingly wide of South Africa’s goalkeeper Erasmus Pieterse’s right hand upright.
However, Great Britain delighted their supporters in the 14th minute when they scored the first goal of the game. Chief playmaker Jackson evaded two tackles before forcing a smart save from Pieterse, only for the umpire to award the first penalty corner for an earlier South African infringement. Jackson stepped up at the set-piece to slam the ball into the top left hand corner of the goal, giving Pieterse no chance and putting Great Britain into the lead at 1-0.
South Africa’s first real chance of the game fell to Lloyd Norris Jones in the 17th minute. The 26 year-old engineered free space for himself on the right hand side of the circle but disappointed with a scuffed attempt that failed to trouble Cannock’s James Fair in the Great Britain goal.
The only other chance of an otherwise low key first half saw a deliberate foul on Surbiton’s Rob Moore lead to Jackson’s second penalty corner of the game being brilliantly tipped over the bar by Pieterse.
Despite South Africa controlling possession during the opening period of the second half, Great Britain still continued to create goal-scoring opportunities, with close range chances falling to Surbiton’s Matt Daly and Reading’s Nick Catlin. However, Pieterse was quick to offer an answer to both attempts, making important saves that denied Great Britain’s exertions in extending their lead.
With the match entering its final stages, South Africa eventually made their possession count by scoring an equalising goal. A classy pirouette in the circle by Wade Paton led to a foot infringement by Wimbledon’s Ben Hawes and South Africa captain Austin Smith drilled the resulting penalty corner low to Fair’s left hand side to put the scores back on parity at 1-1 in the 60th minute.
Shortly after, South Africa stunned the home crowd when they took the lead in the 64th minute with a goal from Jonathan Robinson. The midfielder picked up the ball on the left hand side of the circle and his superb strike low into the left hand corner put the South Africans 2-1 up.
However, with two minutes to go until the final hooter, there was still time for further twists in the now unfolding drama. A fizzing long-range hit by Loughborough Students’ Richard Smith was cleverly nicked by Jackson onto a South African foot, deflecting the ball into back of the net in the 68th minute. With the home nation’s players convinced they’d equalised at 2-2, the umpire had players and spectators alike left in suspense as he called for a video referral to adjudge if the goal was legal.
With replays showing that the goal was legitimate, Great Britain pressed ahead for the winner from the re-start. East Grinstead’s Iain Lewers won a last gasp penalty corner for the home side, but with Jackson’s attempt on goal expertly saved by Pieterse, both sides walked away with a share of the spoils and a point each.
Great Britain now have four points from two games, leaving them in second place behind Australia in Pool A. Their next match will be against Pakistan at 16.00 on Friday 3 August at the Riverside Arena.
Meanwhile, Great Britain women will be aiming to continue their excellent start to the hockey competition when they play Belgium tomorrow night at 19.00.