Friday, March 1, 2024

Olympic hockey qualifiers: Great Britain men rack up record Pakistan win

Great Britain’s power and circle penetration proved too good for Pakistan in Muscat as Paul Revington’s side eased to a 6-1 victory — their biggest ever win over the once Asian powerhouse nation, according to records — and open their Olympic qualifying account in some style.

This young Pakistan team, with an average age of 22, are vying for their first Olympic Games since London 2012. But their Paris aspirations were handed a stark lesson by GB’s front men, as Sam Ward scored a brace either side of goals from Jack Waller, Will Calnan – with a fine circle strike – Zach Wallace and Nick Bandurak.

Pakistan showed their early athleticism and attacking skill with several early flurries forward but, as with their first half, their final ball was found wanting.

But GB were already accruing early opportunities of their own. Their opener came via a corner sent to Sam Ward, who dragged to the incoming Waller from his injector role. With his stick in his left hand, he timed his run brilliantly to send a cutting deflection into the net.

Another corner came two minutes later, GB’s variation saw Bandurak slip to Phil Roper, the Holcombe man’s flick well saved.

Roper was then denied in the second quarter, this time from a direct flick on goal and calmly padded away by Abdullah Khan. The lead up to the corner, though, was delightful; a long aerial by Brendan Creed to James Gall in the circle, trapping brilliantly before finding a Pakistan foot.

GB’s second came at a crucial juncture, two minutes from half-time. David Ames’ 23m pass found Tom Sorsby who struck on the reverse towards goal. It was hit with such venom that it may well have found the net, but Ward added to the threat by finding a tip in to double GB’s lead. 

Britain’s circle threat continued apace in the third quarter when Wallace went just wide of the post with a stick deflection.

A third goal did arrive deep into the quarter, started and finished by Ward. The Old Georgians forward’s work rate saw him garner a GB corner and he then sent a flick which could only be deflected in by the Pakistan post man.

With the next phase, Waller turned provider with a drag across goal. Calnan trapped with an outstretched stick before hooking on the reverse. A fine goal.

A defensive lapse allowed Hannan Shahid to tuck home on the reverse, but four-goal parity was restored when Wallace flicked home from a penalty stroke. Late on, Bandurak notched a sixth. Fresh on from the bench, he sneaked in at the far post and touched home.

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