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England draw positives against Argentina

PUBLISHED: 08:26 19 June 2017

England's Sam Ward celebrates scoring against Argentina with Chris Griffiths (pic Simon Parker)

England's Sam Ward celebrates scoring against Argentina with Chris Griffiths (pic Simon Parker)

Copyright 2017 Simon Parker, all rights reserved

England 3 Argentina 3

Three goals in four minutes earned Olympic Champions Argentina a draw against England after the hosts had taken a 3-0 lead at the Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre.

Mark Gleghorne, Sam Ward and Barry Middleton’s strikes were cancelled out by two Gonzalo Peillat penalty corners and a Matias Paredes goal in an enthralling encounter at the Hero Hockey World League semi-finals.

And Argentina had the chance to steal the winner from the penalty spot in the dying minutes, but George Pinner stood tall to deny Maico Casella.

There were no signs of pre-match nerves for England as they got off to an explosive start in front of a vibrant crowd.

After six minutes Gleghorne’s drag flick was blocked on the line by Manuel Brunet and he duly stepped up to convert the resultant penalty stroke. Three minutes later it was 2-0 to the hosts when a reverse stick strike was blocked by the pads of Juan Vivaldi but the rebound fell kindly to Phil Roper. The Wimbledon forward smashed the ball goal bound for Ward to poach on the far post in true striker’s fashion.

It wasn’t long before Pinner and the England defence were called into action as the Argentinean attack came to life in the second quarter.

A first-time reverse-stick strike from Joaquin Menini was blocked by the England number one before Adam Dixon prevented a certain goal, by stretching to tip the ball over the bar.

When Argentina were awarded their first penalty corner, tournament top scorer Peillat stepped up, but his strike didn’t threaten Pinner as Liam Sanford charged off the line to block as England’s defence held firm and maintained their 2-0 lead going into half time.

Yet again, England started brightly from the restart and took a 3-0 lead after 34 minutes.

Brendan Creed sent a crash ball into the circle for a diving Middleton to deflect into the roof of the net for his 110th international goal.

The South American side bounced back, though, and were on level terms after three quickfire goals in the space of four minutes.

Two penalty corner rocket strikes from Peillat, either side of Paredes’s goal, meant the momentum had firmly swung back in favour of the visitors, with one quarter left to play.

With neither side wanting to settle for a draw, the game continued to flow from end to end and Gleghorne’s low penalty corner strike was saved by the stick of Vivaldi before Argentina were awarded a penalty stroke after a goalmouth scramble.

Casella stepped up to the spot, only to be denied by the outstretched left pad of Pinner, much to the delight of the home crowd.

The drama wasn’t over as Pinner expertly saved a further three penalty corners before England almost snatched it at the death.

Ames turned over possession in the midfield to set up a counter-attack and with three players waiting in the circle, Vivaldi did well to smother Ward’s cross and clear the danger.

Coach Bobby Crutchley said: “We’ve talked among the group about playing a brand of hockey that really gets the crowd involved and gets them excited.

“I really feel that’s starting to happen, the supporters are getting involved, they’re creating energy and that really helped the team.”

England remain top of Pool A, ahead of Argentina on goal difference, and face Korea in their final pool match on Tuesday evening. Tickets are still available to purchase.

England: George Pinner (GK), Henry Weir, Brendan Creed, Michael Hoare, Liam Sanford, Ollie Willars, Ian Sloan (C), David Ames, Adam Dixon, David Goodfield, Barry Middleton, Harry Martin, David Condon, Phil Roper, Sam Ward, Mark Gleghorne, Chris Griffiths. Unused: Harry Gibson (GK).

*India continued their impressive tournament by hammering Pakistan 7-1 in the first game of Sunday afternoon.

While Pakistan were winning the cricket Champions Trophy on the other side of London, they were soundly beaten at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre by a very impressive Indian side.

Sachin Tendulkar congratulated India on the victory afterwards and his nation’s hockey team now face Holland on Tuesday in a game that will decide who tops Pool B.

Monday’s first match sees Scotland take on Pakistan at midday, and the winner will progress to the quarter-finals.

Scotland are ranked 23 in the world, ten places below Pakistan, but will come into the game in good spirits after two stoic performances so far against India and Netherlands.

And depending on the outcomes in the pools, there’s a potential England vs Scotland quarter final on the cards, with World Cup qualification at stake.

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