Hockey: Takher books his ticket: England on top

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The Independent Online
DAVID WHITTLE, the England manager, described England's 2-1 victory against Spain in their final game in the Four Nations tournament here yesterday as 'bittersweet'. The win meant a medal, but the disappointing aspect was the woeful finishing that led to a mass of missed chances.

The pattern of the game was set in the opening minutes when England failed from three penalty corners inside five minutes.

Dominating the game in midfield for long periods, they opened the scoring in the 19th minute when good initial work by Simon Nicklin led to a move involving Russell Garcia, Bobby Crutchley and Rob Thompson as the ball was swept across the front of the Spanish goal for Chris Mayer to strike home.

England squandered enough chances to put the game beyond doubt before the interval, but it was not until 16 minutes into the second half that Crutchley scored England's second after good work by Kalbir Takher, who seems certain to have done enough to book his ticket to Australia for the World Cup.

Six minutes later, Xavier Arnau converted Spain's fifth penalty corner.

England's defence was now put under considerable pressure but, with Simon Mason again in commanding form, held firm.

On Saturday, England, with goals from Phil McGuire and Russell Garcia, twice came from behind to draw 2-2 with the Netherlands, the world champions.

England have again proved that they can live with most of the world's leading teams. They were without the injured Jason Laslett and the suspended Don Williams - who should both be available for their next test in Brussels at the beginning of November - here and their World Cup chances are improving.

ENGLAND: S Mason (Firebrands); J Halls (Old Loughtonians), J Potter (Hounslow, capt), S Hazlitt (Hounslow), Soma Singh (Southgate), S Nicklin (Teddington), C Mayer (Cannock), R Garcia (Polo Barcelona), N Thompson (Old Loughtonians), K Takher (Cannock), B Crutchley (Hounslow). Substitutes used: R Thompson (Hounslow), A Humphrey (Hull), J Shaw (Southgate).

SPAIN: R Jufresa; J Ejarque, J Amat, J Malgosa (capt), R Sala, V Pujol, X Escude, J Garcia-Maurino, X Arnau, P Garcia, J Escarre. Substitutes used: P Usoz, X Moline, A Bou.

Umpires: R Lathowers (Netherlands), J Rommel (Germany).

FOUR NATIONS TOURNAMENT (Monchengladbach) Saturday: Germany 0 Spain 1; Netherlands 2 England 2. Yesterday: England 2 Spain 1; Germany 1 Netherlands 1. Final positions: 1 Netherlands 4pts; 2 England 3; 3 Germany 3; 4 Spain 2.