Great Britain pulled off a narrow 3-2 win over New Zealand to move into second spot in the standings with Australia on the top with 10 points in the 26th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup today.
The Britons and Kiwis walked on tight rope going into this first match today knowing very well that a win can give much comfort to the winning side and stay on par with Australia for a brief moment.
However, Britain’s fate of a shot in Saturday’s final will be decided after the outcome of the Australia-Japan and India versus Malaysia encounters later in the night.
With defending champions Australia needing just a draw against rank outsiders Japan in the second match of the day to book their 13th appearance in the final since 1983, India face the host nation that is bent on breaking the ice for their first win here following three consecutive defeats.
It is a tricky situation for the Australians, Britons and Indians.
The match got off under clear skies and it was Great Britain that dictated terms with the first goal via a penalty corner in the ninth minute. Drag-flick specialist Sam Ward packed a low and rather slow push to the left of goalkeeper Devon Manchester to give the Britons the advantage.
New Zealand kept prodding on for the equaliser and was rewarded in the 30th minute with a field goal from Dominic Newman back but the Britons were back on track with open play goals from Phil Roper in the 39th minute and Mark Gleghorne to lead 3-1 with 11 minutes to the end.
The Black Sticks reduced the deficit in 58th minute from a Kane Russell penalty corner as the score stood 3-2 and made a daring decision of taking off Manchester and played with a kicking back.
Alan Forsyth sounded the board in the last few seconds, steering in a Jonathan Griffith's cross, but the goal was ruled out following a video referral.
And at the final hooter, it was Great Britain that crossed the line first with this win to go second in the table standings with 10 points behind Australia who have a better goal difference.
However, Great Britain’s hopes of a shot in Saturday’s final now rest on the Australia-Japan and India-Malaysia crucial matches.
A Malaysian win over India will clearly push Great Britain into the final against the Kookaburras.