GB defeat Pakistan with late Simon Mantell winner

[img_assist|nid=3237|title=Turning back the clock|desc=Great Britain’s Mark Pearn celebrates his first Champions Trophy goal in a decade GB Hockey/Grant Treeby Images|link=node|align=right|width=220|height=165]GREAT BRITAIN 2 (0)
Mark Pearn 45 (F)                     
Simon Mantell 66 (PC)              
Muhammad Imran 30 (PC)

Great Britain’s Champions Trophy hockey campaign got off to a winning start in Auckland as goals from East Grinstead’s Mark Pearn and Reading’s Simon Mantell helped GB come from behind to record a 2-1 victory over Pakistan.

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Mantell’s late goal thrashed high into the net earned Great Britain all three points as the Reading forward reacted quickest to a bouncing pass from Ashley Jackson after East Grinstead’s Mark Pearn had earlier equalised Muhammad Imran’s first half opener.

Imran’s powerful penalty corner flick had given Pakistan the lead just before the half time break but the experienced Pearn showed great composure to delicately thread the ball beyond goalkeeper Salman Akbar and two defenders ten minutes into the second half. As Great Britain piled on the pressure with a series of penalty corners late on, Simon Mantell made it 2-1 with a shot high into the net from the second phase of a penalty corner.

Afterwards, Great Britain head coach Jason Lee said, “It was great to see so many positives for so many individuals today.  Ben Hawes was back in a major tournament for the first time after injury. Mark Gleghorne and Iain Lewers both played in their first Champions Trophy matches and Mark Pearn has scored his first Champions Trophy goal in ten years.” 

Mantell, Pearn and Gleghorne all began the match on the bench alongside 19-year-old Old Loughtonians midfielder Harry Martin and East Grinstead’s Niall Stott while Hawes and Lewers started.

In windy conditions, Great Britain began brightly, moving possession around well but it was Pakistan who had the first sight of goal as Abdul Haseem Khan broke through the top of the circle, shooting wide of Cannock goalkeeper James Fair’s post.  Shortly afterwards, Pakistan’s first penalty corner was flashed wide of the far post.

Great Britain’s first penalty corner came as the result of excellent combination play from Surbiton’s James Tindall, East Grinstead’s Mark Pearn and Reading’s Simon Mantell but Ashley Jackson’s effort flew narrowly wide. 

On a number of occasions in the first half, Great Britain found space in behind the Pakistani defensive left winning a series of corners.  In the 21st minute, East Grinstead’s Jackson won a penalty corner from such a position but clubmate Mark Gleghorne could not direct it on target. 

With half an hour on the clock Pakistan made the breakthrough.  Abdul Haseem Khan won an initial penalty corner but the effort from the top of the circle was blocked illegally by the onrushing Iain Mackay, who left the field to receive treatment after taking the ball high on his leg.  From the resulting penalty corner, Muhammad Imran struck with a powerful flick inside the right post, which captain Barry Middleton could not prevent from crossing the line.

Great Britain’s response to going behind was to win their third corner of the match and this time Jackson’s effort was on target but Salman Akbar in the Pakistan goal comfortably gloved the ball to safety.

Early in the second half the Great Britain defence had James Fair to thank as he came off his line quickly to block at point blank range from Muhammad Zubair and soon after the Olympic host nation were level.  Running through the middle of the pitch, Barry Middleton linked up perfectly with Ashley Jackson before feeding East Grinstead teammate Pearn towards the back post.  Under pressure from the goalkeeper, the experienced forward maintained his composure to thread the ball through two defenders and into the goal to equalise.  It was Pearn’s seventh in Champions Trophy tournaments, having featured in four previous editions of the competition prior to his retirement from international hockey.  

Following the goal, the match began to open up and Reading forward Simon Mantell forced Salman Akbar into a kicked clearance two minutes later.  At the other end, Fair again did well to thwart the Pakistan front line.

Haseem Khan could perhaps have done better when he latched onto a James Fair kick as the match entered its final ten minutes but his blazed effort flew over the crossbar, 

Salman Akbar was then called upon to save from Surbiton’s Rob Moore as he thrust out a glove to deflect the ball to safety but it was a security that did not last long.  As East Grinstead’s former Dundee Wanderers and Kelburne defender Niall Stott drove a cross into the circle the ball came up off Akbar for the first of three penalty corners in quick succession.  The first, an effort from Mark Gleghorne hit the foot of an onrushing defender while Gleghorne’s next attempt was smothered for too long by Akbar, who conceded another penalty corner.  It was Simon Mantell’s effort from the third that deflected to Ashley Jackson outside the right post and as the former World Young Player of the Year returned the ball to the middle, Mantell was well positioned to lash his shot high into the net leaving Akbar with no chance of keeping it out.

Ahead for the first time in the match, Great Britain saw out the remaining minutes with composure to go level on points with World Champions Australia, whom they face on Sunday (23:05 GMT Saturday, 12:05 Local Time Sunday).

Team manager Andy Halliday said, “It was a pleasing start to the tournament.  I thought the team demonstrated a lot of character in a game I never really thought we looked like losing. We battled hard and did well to come back from being behind.”

The result puts Great Britain second behind Australia in Pool A following the Kookaburras’ 3-2 win over Spain earlier in the day. 

Great Britain Squad v Pakistan Name (Club) Position

Started: James Fair (Cannock) Goalkeeper, Adam Dixon (Beeston) Defender/Midfielder, Ben Hawes (Wimbledon) Defender, Iain Lewers (East Grinstead) Defender, Richard Mantell (Reading) Defender, Ashley Jackson (East Grinstead) Midfielder, Glenn Kirkham (East Grinstead) Midfielder, Barry Middleton (East Grinstead) Midfielder/Forward, Rob Moore (Surbiton) Midfielder/Forward, Mark Pearn (East Grinstead) Forward, James Tindall (Surbiton) Forward. Substitutes Used: Niall Stott (East Grinstead) Defender, Harry Martin (Old Loughtonians) Midfielder, Iain Mackay (Reading) Midfielder, Simon Mantell (Reading) Forward, Mark Gleghorne (East Grinstead) Forward. Did Not Play: George Pinner (Beeston) Goalkeeper, Ken Forbes (Surbiton) Defender


Tournament Standings

Pool A

1.     Australia (3 pts)

2.     Great Britain (3 pts)

3.     Spain (0 pts)

4.     Pakistan (0 pts)


Pool B

1.     Germany (0 pts)

2.     Korea (0 pts)

3.     Netherlands (0 pts)

4.     New Zealand (0 pts)