NEW DELHI, March 8 (PTI): Olympic silver medallist Spain continued their domination over England in the hockey World Cup, defeating the European Champions 2-0 in their last pool match at the 12th edition of the mega-event here today.
With this win, Spain registered their fifth victory over England out of seven World Cup matches the two teams have played so far. The Englishmen finished on the winning side only once while one game ended without result.
Pau Quemada (35th minute) and Eduard Tubau (64th) scored the goals for Spain at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium and almost sealed their third position in the Pool B with nine points.
The victory, however, came too late for Spain as it did very little to brighten their semifinal hopes.
England were already through to the last-four stage of the tournament prior to the match with four wins out of their five matches and most likely title favourites Australia will join them as they have a better goal average than the Spaniards and also a game at hand.
In order to progress to the semis, Spain first needed to beat England by a huge margin today and hope that Pakistan prevail over Australia by a big score.
But that was not to be.
The victory, however, assured Spain a place in the fifth-sixth play-off match on Friday unless Pakistan beat Australia by a margin of 13 goals, which is highly unlikely.
The encounter was a dull and boring one. The first half was a slow pace affair with both the teams playing long balls at the back in search of a way through the opponent’s midfield.
England got the first scoring chance of the match in the 13th minute when they earned their first penalty corner, but the European champions squandered the opportunity as they failed to stop the ball properly.
Spain replied back soon with two opportunities but on first occasion Tubau missed the empty goal by inches and then captain Pol Amat’s shot from short distance was saved by England goalkeeper James Fair.
England was off-colour with set pieces today as they squandered their second short corner when Ashley Jackson drag-flick went wide of the Spanish goal.
Spain, however, broke the deadlock in the final minute of the opening half when Quemada sounded the board from his side’s first penalty corner to go into the breather with a 1-0 lead.
Already through to the semifinals, the Englishmen were in no mood to invest much in the encounter and lacked the zeal and enthusiasm which was visible in their earlier four encounters.
The second half was no different as it hardly witnessed any breathtaking action. The way England approached the match it was clear that they took the game lightly having already sealed their semifinal berth.
England got a chance to level the score in the 53rd minute but Iain Mackay’s deflection from a cross from outside the circle was well saved by Francisco Cortes in the Spanish goal.
Had it not been for James Fair, the margin of defeat could have been more for England as the custodian brilliantly saved a powerful Juan Lainz Abaitua shot from top of the circle.
Spain, however, doubled their lead in the 64th minute when Tubau scored after a nice one-two with Quemada.
Four minutes from the hooter, Spain got their second penalty corner but this time Quemada faltered with his flick.