Britain are denied by late penalty

HOCKEY

Guy Hodgson
Sunday 21 July 1996 23:02
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Great Britain 2 South Korea 2

No British men's hockey team takes the field at the Olympics without reference to the 1988 gold medal. Then the campaign also began with a 2-2 draw against the Koreans and this result in Group B will excite inevitable comparisons.

Both British goals were scored by Calum Giles, whose role in the team is simple. The Havant striker only operates when the situation requires and yesterday he did so to good effect. Two penalty corners, two goals; the strike-rate was perfect.

It would have won the match, too, but for a penalty stroke after Simon Mason, the hero of the first half, brought down Kang Keon-Wook with two minutes remaining. The Reading goal- keeper protested his innocence to no avail, Park Shin-heum converting with a flick.

By no stretch of the imagination could Britain's path to the Olympics be described as smooth. The results alone - two wins in eight matches - are poor enough, but it is only 10 weeks since the head coach, David Whitaker, resigned citing pressure of work. Add to that the ankle injury of Rob Thompson that ruled him out and it was a team battered by events that took to the field.

Thompson, a striker and the possessor of 147 caps, was a player they could least afford to lose as a recurring problem has been a lack of goals. Followers of football might not have been hugely encouraged by the name of his replacement either: Jason Lee.

The British team could hardly complain about lack of incentives to reverse their luck. One potential benefactor has promised the players pounds 1,000 each if they reach the semi-finals, while the manager of the hotel they stayed at during a tour of Trinidad and Tobago will give them a two-week stay each if they win a medal.

The Koreans are ranked ninth in the world, three places below Britain, yet they had the better of the first half and but for Mason they could have been three goals up. Twice in the 13th minute the goalkeeper halted shots, spreading his body to stop a cut-back from the Korean left-winger, Song Seung-Tae, and then flicking out his boot to save a deflection off Jon Wyatt. He also had to advance into the circle to block Kim Young-kyu's charge.

Britain had not had a meaningful shot by this time, so it was a huge relief when they took the lead after 31 minutes from a penalty corner. Wyatt played the ball back, John Shaw stopped it and Giles drag-flicked past Koo Jin-Soo.

With seconds of the first half remaining, Wyatt was deceived by Kang's move and the Korean had a free run on goal. That ought to have provided a platform for the Koreans to dominate, instead it was Britain who upped the pace, going ahead after 50 minutes with another intervention from from Giles. It should have been decisive.

GREAT BRITAIN: Mason; Wyatt, Halls, Singh, Maguire, Laslett, Takher, Garcia, Thompson, Mayer, Hall. Substitutes: Luckes, Hazlitt, Shaw, Lee, Giles.

SOUTH KOREA: Koo; Shin, Han, Cho, Jeon, You S-J, Park, Jeong, Kang, Song, Kim Y-K. Substitutes: You M-K, Kim J-Y, Kim Y-B, Hong.

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