Great Britain’s men thrilled a full house of 16,000 tonight with an astonishing recovery from 3-0 down to hold the world’s No 1 side Australia and stay level on points with them going into the final pool matches on Tuesday. A point against Spain will take the Britons through to the semi-final.
Early in the second half, when Mark Knowles scored Australia’s third goal, his vibrant team in their macho sleeveless vests had looked capable of not only making the last four but adding to their country’s embarrassingly poor total of one gold medals here. Having previously put six goals past South Africa and five past Spain, they seemed likely to do similar damage to Britain’s goal difference after 45 minutes of dominance.
Suddenly the pattern changed, however. Jonty Clarke began the recovery with a cross-shot that bounced in off a defender and with the crowd suddenly believing, Richard Smith’s shot from a penalty corner was diverted in by their captain Barry Middleton. It was still looking like a gallant defeat with four minutes to play until James Tindall cut in from the left to drive home an equaliser. Even then there was added drama: Australia went for a video referral, claiming that their goalkeeper Nathan Burgers had been impeded but the video umpire rightly ruled that there was no case to answer.
All of which had looked a world away after two goals in the opening ten minutes by Russell Ford, who had begun the game as a substitute. He had been on for only 20 seconds before making a darting run along the back-line and scoring off the boot of goalkeeper James Fair from the acutest of angles.
He soon had a second, as the Australians took a quick free hit after Clarke had been sent to the sin-bin. Once made Knowles made it three, the game looked up and two experienced coaches were at something of a loss to explain the transformation. “For us to compete with them we have to have a little slice of luck,” Britain’s Jason Lee said. “But we’ve got quality and a bit of grit.”
Australia’s Rick Charlesworth said: “It feels better for the team that comes from behind.” The ecstatic reception for GB’s lap of honour confirmed that.
Earlier Pakistan scored two late goals to beat South Africa 5-4. In Pool B the Netherlands qualified for the semi-final with a 3-1 win against Germany, who must take a point from their final group match against New Zealand to go through.