Thursday, June 13, 2024

Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Cup: England men and Australia set up final showdown

England set up a mouthwatering Azlan Shah Men’s Cup final against old rivals Australia after routing hosts Malaysia 7-2 on Friday night in Ipoh.

In their fifth and final group game, England saved their best to last as Barry Middleton, Mark Gleghorne and Sam Ward all scored two goals apiece, with Ollie Willars also netting in an all-round dazzling display of offensive hockey.

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Australia had already sealed their final berth before a 3-1 win over Argentina, the Olympic champions, left them unbeaten from five matches.

It means that Saturday’s trophy winners will earn early bragging rights ahead of next month’s Commonwealth Games, although the Kookaburras have perhaps taken first honours courtesy of their 4-1 group stage win over England.

The final (12.35pm GMT: live on BBC Sport online) will be a virtual repeat of last year’s match when Great Britain beat Australia 4-3 to become the first home nations side to lift the prestigious trophy since 1994.

“We seem to have found our goalscoring boots,” said coach Bobby Crutchley. “I’m really pleased with the performance.”

After some early Malaysia pressure and key stops from George Pinner, three goals in five whirlwind minutes in the first quarter set the tone as Gleghorne first fired into the roof of the net from a penalty corner.

Glaring defensive space gifted by the hosts then allowed Willars to strike low before Middleton’s fizzing reverse hit shot.

Ward scored England’s fifth before the quarter was out with a sliding stick shot and a low, whipped penalty corner strike also proved too good.

Middleton’s second was sublime, as was England’s press and circle penetration, before Malaysia struck with two late goals.

Crutchley added: “A strong first quarter took the game away from Malaysia, though we were a little sloppy towards the end we are very happy with a convincing win. We look forward to the final and another opportunity to play Australia.”

England squad

George Pinner (GK), Harry Martin, Chris Griffiths, Ian Sloan, Sam Ward, Mark Gleghorne, Phil Roper (C), Adam Dixon, Barry Middleton, Brendan Creed, Liam Sanford

Subs: Harry Gibson (GK), Ollie Willars, David Goodfield, Liam Ansell, David Condon, James Gall

Total Hockey

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