Hockey: England stave off India to reach World semi

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The Independent Online

England claimed a place in the semi-finals of the Hockey World Cup with a game to spare after beating the hosts India 3-2 in Delhi. Victories in their first four games mean England are into the last four, but they were forced to withstand a fierce fightback from India in Saturday's match.

James Tindall's 16th-minute strike gave England a 1-0 lead at half-time, before Ashley Jackson struck twice after the break. Two late goals to India set up a grandstand finish but England held on, much to the delight of their captain, Barry Middleton. "It hasn't really sunk in yet," he said. "Reaching the semi-finals is unbelievable. That was one of the best games I've ever been involved in and I'm just so proud of our players."

The head coach, Jason Lee, added: "It's a fantastic achievement for this group. They've worked so hard to achieve it and fully deserve a place in the semi-finals. We obviously came here to reach the semi-finals, so one of our three goals has been achieved.

"They had to dig deep and it was a gutsy second-half display but the team spirit within this group is obvious to see. We're very pleased for the players. Now we must enter the final and then win the World Cup. This is a sort of revival of English hockey. The first big step was beating Germany in the Euro final last year."

England's first goal came when Nick Catlin was given time on the left to cut inside and play a pass into the circle, which Richard Alexander deflected towards the back post. Tindall was left with time to make sure of his finish for his third goal of the tournament. India almost equalised early in the second half but England soon doubled their advantage from their only penalty corner of the match. From Glenn Kirkham's push-out, Ashley Jackson flicked beyond Adrian D'Souza and five minutes later it was 3-0.

Iain Mackay's shot to the near post came off Jackson's stick and landed back in the middle of the circle. Catlin battled for the ball with a defender, whose attempted clearance hit a team-mate and back into the net. As the last English player to touch the ball, Jackson was creditedwith his second goal of the match.

The tournament favourites Australia sit three points behind England but will also qualify for the semi-finals, unless they lose to Pakistan by a big margin and Spain hammer England in the today's closing group matches. Both semi-finals will be played on Thursday, and the final on Saturday.

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