OLYMPICS LONDON 2012: Men into last four against Netherlands
By Phil Jones, Sportsbeat, London 2012
GREAT Britain men’s hockey players scraped through to the Olympic semi-finals for the first time since 1988 - and remain unbeaten in London 2012 thanks to a tense draw with Spain.
LAST FOUR: Great Britain will now face the Netherlands in the London 2012 hockey semi-finals
Spain had to win to progress to the last four and they nearly grabbed the crucial winner in a controversial last five minutes – but Team GB held on to secure a 1-1 draw and a semi-final tie against Pool B winners the Netherlands.
“We always knew Spain would come at us. It was important to get ahead,” said defender Iain Lewers.
“It's great. It's a fantastic feeling. I'm sure the team in 1988 had feelings of similar things back in their day but we're looking to create our own part of history."
The home side took the lead at the tail end of the first half thanks to an Ashley Jackson penalty corner conversion. Jackson’s drag flick, low to the goalkeepers left, was his fifth goal of the tournament and 80th in international competition.
Spain hit back midway through the second-half, penalty corner specialist Pau Quemada forcing a fine save from British goalkeeper James Fair.
But there was nothing Fair could do as Quemada arrowed his next effort into the bottom right corner of the goal from the top of the circle.
Team GB sat back after the Spanish equaliser and invited pressure, which the Beijing silver medallists were happy to apply.
Spain were dominating the closing stages and forced two penalty corners in the final five minutes but again Quemada couldn’t get the better of Fair.
Umpiring decisions then came to the fore as John Wright awarded a further two penalty corners to the Spanish, before changing his mind following consultation with his colleague on the pitch.
“I'd like to congratulate Great Britain, although the result was not given to them fairly," said Spanish coach Daniel Martin.
“It cannot happen that an international official changes his decision twice just because he is surrounded by the opposition players. It has already happened before that an umpire has been surrounded by Great Britain players and has used the video referral.
“We are in a tournament with clear favourites and these countries are being favoured. That's all I have to say.”
However, British coach Danny Kerry took a different stance on the controversy and felt the umpires’ decisions should be respected.
“I believe strongly in the integrity and honour of our umpires. If you gave me an hour I could show you 100 decisions I didn't like,” he said.
Great Britain now face the Netherlands in their semi-final, with the Dutch having won all five of their Pool B matches.
© Sportsbeat 2012