Great Britain 3 (0)
Ansell (33’, FG & 55’, FG), Ward (41’, PC)
Canada 1 (0)
van Son (51’, FG)
Great Britain’s men made it back-to-back victories in the Pool stage of the Tokyo Olympics with a 3-1 victory over Canada.
The team hit the crossbar, post, and saw the opposition goalkeeper make several impressive saves in a first half that would somehow finish goalless.
It was a different matter come the third quarter as Liam Ansell and Sam Ward both found the target with GB truly in the ascendancy.
Though Canada brought one back late on, any nerves were quickly shut down as Ansell hit his second of the match to make it consecutive victories for Great Britain’s men.
Great Britain were looking threatening from the off with a succession of penalty corners coming within the opening minutes of the half.
Phil Roper twice looked to have given GB an early lead when his initial drag flick was blocked on the line by the last remaining defender before his next effort smacked into the crossbar.
As GB ramped up the pressure, Chris Griffiths conjured a sublime strike on the half-volley, though his thumping drive was well met by a fantastic save from Antoni Kindler in the Canadian goal.
Sam Ward also came agonisingly close to putting GB ahead as he broke forward on the counter-attack. With time to pick out his spot, the forward’s powerful shot on the reverse rocketed past Kindler but was then met by the far post as the woodwork denied Danny Kerry’s side once again.
It was all one-way traffic through the first half, though Canada were defending admirably, the team were struggling to create any meaningful chances of their own as the score remained goalless heading into half time.
After being frustrated through the opening half, the GB pressure would eventually tell after the interval. Just a few minutes after the half time break, Ansell found himself with time on the ball to produce a tidy finish and send GB ahead with his second goal in as many matches at the Tokyo Games.
The third quarter would prove to be decisive as Ward doubled the GB advantage with another superb drag flick from a penalty corner.
Canada wouldn’t go down without a fight and brought one back with ten minutes remaining to make GB work for their victory. Floris van Son’s brilliant reverse stick shot smacking into the inside of the post on its way into the goal to make it 2-1.
The team ensured there would be some nervy moments for GB, winning their first penalty corner of the match and testing the defence with two further set pieces.
However, GB held firm and quickly ended the Canadian pressure. Phil Roper’s shot was veering wide, but Ansell was on hand to tuck it in from close range at the back post to bag his second of the match and restore the two goal cushion.
With Kindler withdrawn for an extra outfielder, GB nearly made it four when Chris Griffiths latched onto an aerial into the Canadian circle, however the forward’s attempt flew just wide of the target.
The result means that Great Britain’s men have two wins from two games going into their next match against Germany on Wednesday 27 July at 04:15 BST.
After the match, Head Coach Danny Kerry commented: “We showed glimpses of our level of play but also the bit of tension in the game means that we aren’t playing high enough, so we need to be playing our game more consistently. We can take positives in that we’ve won both of our opening games.
“I think you have to understand when you’re playing teams ranked lower than you that they have nothing to lose and it’s a win-win for them. You have to play with the expectation and judgement on your shoulders. When our chances hit the crossbar, the post, and the goalkeeper also made a world-class save, but the game is still tight, then you feel the pressure a bit and I think that’s what happened to the lads today.
“What was good today was that when Canada took their goalkeeper off, we remembered our processes and nearly converted off them, so it was good to see that clarity of mind in that moment. Despite not playing anywhere near our best, we’ve still won our first two games.”
Liam Ansell added: “It’s a big three points for us. We knew coming into this game that we wanted to leave a mark on the game, keep a lot of the ball, and make them run, so that hopefully by the end of the game we’d have the energy advantage to score those goals. I think in these tournaments, the games are quick and fast, so we need to train, recover, and prep for Germany tomorrow now.
“We want to win every game. As a team you never want to lose or draw, you always go out there to win, so our focus is firmly on the next three Pool matches. They’re tough opponents but we’ve beaten them in the past. We want to go out and do that again and keep the momentum going.”
Starting XI: Ames, Griffiths, Ward, Roper, Dixon (C), Creed, Payne (GK), Waller, Gall, Sorsby, Wallace
Subs: Draper, Shipperley, Sloan, Ansell, Sanford