(Image credit: Yan Huckendubler)
Two goals from Simon Mantell led Great Britain to a 3-1 victory over Canada in both teams’ first game at the 2015 Hockey World League Final Saturday in Raipur, India.
Great Britain, ranked fourth in the world, got off to an early start as Mantell got his first of the game by getting a stick on the end of an Ollie Willars delivery only two minutes into the match.
“At certain times our basics let us down,” says veteran Canadian midfielder Mark Pearson. “We know we’re not as technically gifted as some teams here but we really on our basics. It’s just a little bit frustrating.”
Canada responded quickly, however, when Pearson took a quick shot from the top of the circle and beat goalkeeper James Bailey in the fourth minute. The officials reviewed the play, but the goal stood with Pearson’s shot coming from just inside the area.
“From that position, I’m just looking to drag it into the D and kind of fire it in to the back post,” says Pearson. “It’s something our coach always harps on. I was a little bit fortunate, I just kind of skipped one in off the back post.”
The two teams played at 1-1 to the end of the first quarter and in the second, Great Britain began to mount the offensive against the fourteenth ranked Canadians. Despite the chances though, the game remained tied thanks to some steady goaltending from Canadian keeper Antoni Kindler.
It wasn’t until the twenty-third minute that the deadlock was broken. It was once again Mantell at the end of a cross-goal delivery getting a stick on the ball for his second of the game, giving the Brits a 2-1 lead.
Immediately after the goal, Canada was given the game’s first card and Great Britain didn’t take long to convert with the man advantage.
A Canadian turnover resulted in a circle entry and after the ball bounced around and wasn’t cleared, Nick Catlin smashed a shot – which was deflected – past Kindler.
Canada earned the game’s first penalty corner late in the first half and were able to get a shot on goal, but Bailey was equal to the challenge, turning it away and keeping the score at 3-1 at half-time.
Early in the second half, Great Britain was given its first penalty corner of the game, and as he did for much of the first half, Kindler stood tall keeping the ball out at the game within reach for Canada.
There was no scoring in the third quarter and both teams traded chances in the fourth, but again without a goal being scored. Great Britain held on for the 3-1 win and Canada took the loss.
Despite coming up on the wrong end of the decision, Canada was able to steady its defensive shape as the game went on and created some offensive chances of its own. The Canadians will likely be encouraged with the effort against a team ranked ten spots higher than it in the world rankings.
“Eyes are certainly certainly on the Olympic Games next summer,” adds Pearson. “It’s the first game of a long road so we’ll go back and look at the video and try to improve.”
The Canadians have no time to rest as they play their second of game of the round robin on Sunday against Belgium. First whistle is scheduled for 5:00am PT/8:00am ET. The game will be broadcast on ATN’s Cricket Plus channel in Canada. Subscription is required.