Olympic Games: Hockey: Hill's double helps quell British tension

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The Independent Online
Great Britain. . .2

Egypt. . . . . . .0

ROB HILL, with two brilliantly taken penalty corner goals, saved Britain's blushes as they set out to defend their Olympic hockey title here yesterday as temperatures reached the high 80s.

It was a far from impressive performance in a very tense game, and the five Seoul medallists in the starting line-up - increased to six with the second-half substitution of Russell Garcia for John Shaw - seemed more nervous than most.

The opening exchanges followed the expected pattern, Britain forcing the pace in midfield but failing to make their way through a packed Egyptian defence never afraid to resort to heavy body- checking to hold their line.

When Britain did break through, usually after timely passes from Shaw or through Steve Batchelor's speed down the right, the move broke down as Sean Kerly and Rob Thompson failed to beat the Egyptian offside tactics.

It was Gamal Abdulla, in the 11th minute, who brought the first of a number of good saves from Sean Rowlands as he weaved his way through the British defence with ease. Four minutes later Britain were awarded the first penalty corner, forced by Thompson after Jon Potter had sent Batchelor clear down the wing with a precise pass. Hill's powerful strike went wide.

A foul on Batchelor by Hisham Korany gave Britain a second penalty corner, in the 22nd minute, and their opening goal, Hill taking advantage of a rather generous award with a powerful flick into the roof of the net.

Casual marking in defence at free hits nearly cost Britain as Magdy Abdulla and Gamal Mohamed caught them napping to bring Rowlands into the action again.

Britain should have increased their lead on half-time after a Kerly-Thompson move put Shaw clear at the top of the circle. He hesitated and shot tamely at goalkeeper Mohamed Tantawy's pads.

Britain substituted the Seoul heroes, Kerly and Batchelor, at the interval, introducing Jason Lee and Don Williams, but it did little to improve cohesion. Egypt, with two penalty corners at the beginning of the half, looked the more dangerous.

It was not until 15 minutes into the half that Britain again began to put their game together, with Lee taking a shrewd pass from Rob Clift to test the Egyptian keeper.

A penetrating move by Lee four minutes later won Britain's third penalty corner. Up stepped Hill, the Somerset farmer, to convert his second goal with another high scoop, giving Britain a much- needed cushion which saw them through an awkward seven minutes when they were reduced to 10 men following the temporary suspension of Williams.

Norman Hughes, the British coach, was disappointed that the team had not created more chances. 'It was a nervous performance but two points in the bag,' he said. 'We only had one at this stage in Seoul.'

Australia and Germany, two more contenders for semi-final places, gave early notice with powerful displays. Australia crushed Argentina 7-0, while Germany, with a controlled performance, beat India 3-0.

Even so, Germany, Britain's opponents tomorrow in a repeat of the Seoul final, made a nervous start and committed a number of technical errors but took their chances on the three penalty corners they were awarded to win the game with three conversions.

GREAT BRITAIN: S Rowlands (Havant); S Martin (Holywood 87), P Bolland (Hounslow), J Potter (Hounslow), J Laslett (Teddington), R Hill (Havant), S Batchelor (East Grinstead), J Shaw (Southgate), S Kerly (Canterbury), R Clift (East Grinstead, capt), R Thompson (Hounslow). Substitutes: D Williams (Havant) for Batchelor 36 min; J Lee (East Grinstead) for Kerly 36 min; R Garcia (Havant) for Shaw 56 min.

EGYPT: M Tantawy; I Tawfik, H Hassan, B Corany (capt), A Elyazid, A Mohamedy, A Gindy, G Abdelgany, G Abdulla, G Mohamed, M Abdulla.

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