Friday, April 19, 2024

Olympic hockey qualifier: Great Britain men trounce Malaysia to reach Tokyo

THP Report | Lee Valley

For Great Britain men, successive Olympics since 1984. For Malaysia, only uncertainty.

After a 5-2 win, Great Britain raced to Tokyo 2020 qualification on Sunday thanks to a 9-3 overall aggregate victory. The cold environs of Lee Valley, the world-class forward play and finishing of Sam Ward and Alan Forsyth, who scored a brace and hat-trick respectively, ultimately proved too much for the Tigers.

Now, Malaysian hockey chiefs will likely wield the axe on coach Roelant Oltmans after the nation’s failure to reach their first Olympics since 2000. Their president has already said he would quit if GB won.

Great Britain, meanwhile, has two teams competing in Japan, a relief for funding first and foremost, the potential story lines incoming: a Olympic husband and wife, a brother and sister, and belief now for the men’s team that they can atone for their ninth place in Rio.

The hosts won handsomely here. On Sunday, Forsyth, after being fed a pin-point 30-yard pass and failing in his one-one-one attempt, duly made amends to score his 100th international goal from a penalty stroke soon after.

His seventh minute slot home was doubled by Ward two minutes later, fed by Harry Martin, whose sister Hannah played two impressive games for GB women.

Malaysia were always going to prove a handful at corners and their riposte came via Fitri Saari’s stick. But a second from Ward put the game to bed, his double coming with a low dragflick and a gleeful celebration. In the final minutes, Forsyth finished off a sparkling attacking move and then slotted a third from a penalty stroke after a push in the D.

GB’s performance over two legs showed their class, although Malaysia did prove a tricky outfit. GB started the year in Pro League style, largely kept the momentum to reach the Finals, but endured a below par Euros with largely the same squad.

With Ward, who was grounded after receiving what seemed a heavy blow from a close-range Martin shot, and Forsyth, GB have a deadly duo up front, the return of Ashley Jackson – fighting for Rio redemption – can add further fuel, while David Ames continues on a world-class trajectory, as does man-of-the-match Zach Wallace. The signs look good as coach Danny Kerry attempts the ultimate in coaching: gold with both men and women.

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