England upset Australia to start World Cup campaign in style

JAMES Tindall’s double strike handed England the perfect start to their World Cup campaign as they downed Australia for the first time in 25 years in Delhi.

HISTORIC WIN: James Tindall celebrates with Alistair Brogdon scores twice as England claim first defeat of Australia for 25 years in World Cup opener in Delhi (Grant Treeby Images/EHB)

Goaltender James Fair was the star for England, keeping out countless chances for the Australians as Jason Lee’s men came from behind to win 3-2.

Despite lifting the Euro Hockey Nations Championship last year, England had gone into their opening match as underdogs with world number two Australia high in confidence after their victory in December’s Champions Trophy in Sydney.

 But led by an inspired performance by Fair between the sticks, England – who finished sixth from six in Sydney – gradually grappled control of the game.

While Australia’s penalty corners went begging, England were lethal from the dead ball situations and put themselves ahead despite being on the back foot for the majority of the first half.

Man-of-the-match Glenn Kirkham also impressed in the middle of the pitch and stalwart defender Richard Mantell admitted it was a case of hanging on as the Australians pushed for an equaliser at the death.

“They were relentless at the end there and they come at you all the time,” said Mantell, whose brother Simon withdrew from the squad with an injury two days ago.

“But we knew if we could stay in the match long enough, we could take it.

“It’s a tough group and we’ve got some more difficult matches ahead but we knew that coming into the tournament and we’re ready.”

After dominating the opening 25 minutes, James Dwyer broke the deadlock for Australia as he dispatched a penalty shot following Mantell’s stick check on striker Edward Ockenden.

But less than a minute later, England drew level as 2009 World Hockey young player of the year Ashley Jackson scooped his second penalty corner high into the net.

Alistair Brogdon had a reaction shot saved by Australian goaltender George Bazeley’s outstretched leg four minute later but as half-time approached, England took a surprise lead.

With Jackson off the pitch, Mantell took command of the penalty corner but the veteran faked his shot and Tindall smashed home instead for the first of his brace.

England were lucky to be in the lead and they knew it, picking up their level in the second half after a grilling from Lee.

And the increased tempo immediately paid dividends as Tindall bagged his second goal ten minutes into the second half.

After finding Rob Moore in the circle, the Surbiton striker’s shot rolled past Bazeley and on to the post but Tindall was chasing down the shot and prodded home the rebound into an unguarded net.

England continued to press and Jackson had a shot cleared off the line by Matthew Butturini before Dwyer pounced on a rebounded penalty corner to pull Australia one goal behind.

Australia sensed a draw was in a sight and pushed hard for one last goal but Fair stood firm to the late pressure and England held on for a historic win.

In the other Pool B matches, Spain beat South Africa 4-2 and hosts India kicked off with a 4-1 defeat of Asian rivals Pakistan.