GREAT BRITAIN'S reign as Olympic hockey champions effectively ended here yesterday when they were beaten by Australia in their last pool game and failed to qualify for the semi-finals.
The scoreline was unfair to the holders, but reflected the fact that while the Australians took all their chances, Britain, on the few occasions they created goalscoring opportunities, were denied by a couple of splendid saves by Australia's 22-year-old goalkeeper, Damon Diletti.
Britain made a a disastrous start. In the third minute Jay Stacy's penalty corner strike found Paul Bolland's foot, and the Australian captain Warren Birmingham stepped up to convert the resulting penalty stroke.
Britain responded gamely with Sean Kerly, playing his best game since arriving for his third Olympics, always in the thick of things. At the other end a controversial penalty corner award from the Japanese umpire Kyoshi Sana gave Australia the chance to go two up, Stacy beating Sean Rowlands with a high flick.
The game's turning point came on the interval when, from another British penalty corner, the ball was slipped to Kerly, whose powerful flick was off target.
The Australians were awarded a second penalty stroke in the second minute of the second half, and with Birmingham again making no mistake, the British resistance was effectively broken. As the British flooded forward, Stephen Davies cashed in with a couple of goals, and Stacy got his second, through the legs of Rowlands.
Britain's coach Norman Hughes felt that his side had created more chances than the Australians during the first half, adding: 'We will now do our best to finish in the top five places so that we can compete in the Champions Trophy.'
It is important that Britain stays in this tournament because it ensures competition against the world's best. Bernie Cotton, the Britain manager, said: 'We have a new generation of players coming through who have learnt all their hockey on artificial surfaces. With the opportunity to compete at the top we will be back again.'
GREAT BRITAIN: S Rowlands (Havant); S Martin (Holywood '87), P Bolland (Hounslow), J Potter (Hounslow), J Laslett (Teddington), R Hill (Havant), D Williams (Havant), R Garcia (Havant), S Kerly (Canterbury), R Clift (East Grinstead, capt), R Thompson (Hounslow). Substitutes: S Nicklin (Slough) for Clift, 36; J Shaw (Southgate) for Williams, 48; S Batchelor (East Grinstead) for Thompson, 51.
AUSTRALIA: D Diletti; K Wark, M York, M Evans, W Birmingham (capt), A Carey, L Bodimeade, J Stacy, S Davies, D Wansbrough, P Lewis. Substitutes: G Reid for Wansborough, 47; J Bestall for Wark, 55; L Dreher for Diletti, 65.
Umpires: A Renaud (Fr), K Sana (Jap).Reuse content