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Hockey Champions Trophy: England stun Australia, Belgium beat Pakistan

Bhubaneswar, Dec 06: England stunned five-time reigning champions Australia and Belgium beat Pakistan on the opening day of the Hero Champions Trophy hockey tournament here at Kalinga Stadium on Saturday.

Sam Ward scored twice on his debut as England beat Australia 3-1, while Belgium defeated Pakistan 2-1 in their Pool A matches. Debutant Ward (27th and 56th minutes) scored twice, while Alastair Brogdon (6th) pumped in another to secure a well-deserved win for the England. Australia's lone goal was scored by Chris Ciriello (54th min).

World No. 1 Australia fielded a relatively young team in the elite eight-nation tournament and it was quite evident from their display that the Kookaburras were going through a transition phase post the iconic coach Ric Charlesworth era.

England, on the other hand, made a bright start and surged ahead in the sixth minute when Brogdon scored from a field effort.

He won possession in the circle and defeated Australia goalie Andrew Charter with a powerful backhand stroke.

The world champions, however, came back stronger in the second quarter and earned a couple of penalty corners but failed to capitalise on the opportunities.

England doubled their lead against the run of play in the 27th minute when debutant Ward, who was called up into the team last Saturday after Harry Martin had to pull out due to an injury, smashed the ball into the empty Kookaburra goal after the ball bounced off the post.

Both the teams matched each other in the third quarter and created chances but the goalkeepers Charter and England's George Pinner made some good saves.

Trailing by two goals, the Australians, who sported a black arm band in memory of late cricketer Phil Hughes, pressed the accelerator in the last quarter but the English defence stood tall until Chris Ciriello converted a penalty corner in the 54th minute to bring the world champions back into the game.

Soon after, Australia created some promising chances but failed to find the net. Instead it was Ward who scored his second goal from a fast counter-attack four minutes from the hooter to seal the game in England's favour.

Australia coach Graham Reid rued his team's missed

opportunities and felt that they were slow to get off the blocks in the match.

"Out start was sluggish. We created enough chances to win the game but we ourselves were down in the first quarter. We managed a couple of penalty corners but didn't convert them," Reid said.

Meanwhile, in the second match of the day, world-ranked fourth Belgium were made to toil hard by World No. 11 Pakistan for the win.

Belgium started on a bright note and took the lead in 10th minute through Tanguy Cosyns' field goal.

After a goalless second quarter, Pakistan drew level through skipper Muhammad Imran, who converted a penalty stroke with consummate ease in the 36th minute.

But seven minutes later, Belgium restored their lead when Thomas Briels scored another field goal for the Red Lions.

Pakistan pressed hard for the equaliser in the fourth and final quarter but their forwards failed to break the Belgium defence.

Pakistan coach Sheikh Shahnaz was satisfied with his team's performance despite the loss.

"I am happy with our performance. The boys did well. We missed a few chances including two penalty corners," Shahnaz said. 

-PTI

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