Hockey: Britain face early exit after defeat by Spain

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The Independent Online

Pakistan, Britain's final Pool A opponents next Monday, gained an authoritative 3-0 victory over South Korea in the first game of yesterday's programme.

Great Britain have almost certainly waved goodbye to any chance of an Olympic medal following their 5-1 defeat last night by Spain, with the Spanish now right back in the race for a semi-final place after a convincing performance.

In a game which started explosively, Britain held their own for periods but could not match the efficiency of the Spanish goal-scoring machine.

After Simon Mason had saved well from Santiago Freixa at a penalty corner in the second minute, Ben Hawes switched play to the other end. Hawes smashed the ball into the Spanish circle where Barry Middleton, taking advantage of a miss by Xavier Ribas, brilliantly put the ball into the Spanish net.

The Indian umpire signalled a goal but was immediately surrounded by Spanish players, and after consultation with his German colleague he changed his decision, awarding a free hit against Hawes' cross for dangerous play.

Within a couple of minutes Pol Amat had moved unchallenged across the British circle to beat Mason with a fine reverse-stick shot. The ball appeared to go through the goalkeeper's legs.

The game now centred around a midfield battle, with the Spanish having a slight edge until two goals within a couple of minutes from Freixa put them in control as the half ended. The first was a spectacular field goal after the striker robbed the British captain, Brett Garrard, and the second came at a penalty corner.

Any hopes of a second-half British fightback were dashed three minutes into the half when Amat, picking up a loose ball in the circle, smashed in his second reverse-stick shot from the narrowest of angles.

Although Britain pulled back a goal through Middleton in the 57th minute, Ribas completed the scoring five minutes later.

Jason Lee, the British coach, said: "We were well and truly beaten." Lee praised the Cannock forward Middleton, saying: "In any other team Barry would be regarded as one of the best players in the world."

GREAT BRITAIN: S Mason; T Bertram, B Garrard (capt), B Hawes, G Moodie, C Parnham; M Johnson, J Wallis; B Middleton, N Stott, R Moore. Substitutes used: M Pearn, D Hall, G Fordham.

SPAIN: B Herrera; X Ribas; A Fabregas, F Fabregas, J Sanchez; R Alegre, R Garza, J Escarre (capt), S Freixa, P Amat, E Tubau. Substitutes used: E Aguilar, V Sojo, A Sala, D Alegre.

Umpires: I Faulkner (NZ) and S Kumar (Ind).

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