Rivals Australia leave Team GB men’s hockey team’s Olympic hopes under threat

In typical British conditions in the Deodoro hockey arena, Team GB’s men’s team lost 2-1 to rivals Australia last night to leave qualification from their group in the balance.

Yellow cards in the final quarter for Ashley Jackson and Wimbledon’s Michael Hoare allowed the Kookaburras to take a two-goal lead, with GB only able to add a consolation.

The match started evenly, GB and Australia trading attacks, though respective goalkeepers George Pinner and Andrew Charter remained largely untroubled in the first quarter.

Australia had the first real chance after 13 minutes, a penalty corner awarded for a back-stick foul.

However, Blake Govers’ drag flick did not get further than the onrushing GB defenders.

Bobby Crutchley’s team’s first clear chance came a few minutes into the second quarter.

Captain Barry Middleton found himself in yards of space inside the circle but, usually so assured, his touch failed him and he knocked the ball onto his foot.

Impressive skill from Ashley Jackson down the right wing provided GB with their first penalty corner of the match, but Harry Martin was unable to deflect Jackson’s shot into the net.

A second opportunity from the short corner for the team in red arrived five minutes from the interval.

This time Simon Mantell, a late call up to the squad, took the strike towards goal but his shot fizzed just wide of the Charter’s left post.

The high press from the Australian team ensured GB never had time to dwell at the back but despite that the Brits certainly edged the second half, just unable to find the opening goal.

The second half started with both teams knowing a draw wouldn’t help either side’s chances of reaching the quarter finals.

David Condon had the perfect chance to break the deadlock two minutes into the second half, finding himself through on goal with only Charter to beat.

Some hesitant play, however, allowed Australian defenders to thwart Condon’s progress.

With 17.3 seconds to go in the third quarter, Australia came as close to scoring as any team had so far.

Govers managed to get a reverse stick strike on a penalty corner rebound.

The shot was turned onto the post by Pinner, and proceeded to roll along the line before it was cleared.

The match was therefore to be decided in the final 15 minutes, and GB’s hopes were dealt a blow when Jackson was shown a yellow card early in the final quarter.

The GB men held off for four of the five minutes of Jackson’s suspension, but Australia finally made the extra man count — Aran Zalewski with a clever shot directed under Pinner from five yards out.

Prospects of an equaliser were damaged when Wimbledon Hockey Club defender Hoare was shown a yellow card barely two minutes after Jackson had returned to the pitch.

Despite the personnel deficit, GB had no choice but to push for an equaliser, leaving themselves very vulnerable to the counter attack.

It was in this manner that Australia doubled their lead, Pinner unable to prevent the four onrushing attackers from working the ball around him for Jacob Whetton to poke home.

A consolation did arrive for GB, Jackson directing a precise drag flick between two charging defenders two minutes before the conclusion of the match.

Though Crutchley’s team threw everything at the Aussies in the final moments, it was too late and Britain slipped out of the qualification places to fifth in pool A.

They will now have to win their final match against Spain, and try to score more goals than the New Zealand men who have a goal difference three greater than GB.

That match, and possibly Britain’s final contest at Rio 2016, is at 9pm tomorrow.

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