Olympics hockey: Doncaster’s Barry Middleton inspires Great Britain to victory

Doncaster's Great Britain captain Barry Middleton celebrates scoring during their Pool A match against Argentina at the Riverbank Arena. Stephen Pond/PA Wire.
Doncaster's Great Britain captain Barry Middleton celebrates scoring during their Pool A match against Argentina at the Riverbank Arena. Stephen Pond/PA Wire.
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DONCASTER’S Barry Middleton inspired Great Britain’s men to overcame some cynical Argentinian tactics to get their Olympic campaign off to a winning start.

Captain Middleton led the way with strikes either side of half-time before Dan Fox, with his first international goal, and Richard Smith completed the job.

Even Pedro Ibarra’s late penalty corner could not put a dampener on a game which showed glimpses of GB’s best but was far from the complete performance.

In May, Argentina international Fernando Zylberberg, who was not selected for the Olympics because of fitness issues, caused controversy when he was used in a political television advert which depicted him running on the Falklands War Memorial.

And there was a distinctly tetchy feel to the match, especially in the first period with Matt Daly lucky not to be sin-binned for clattering into Ibarra just before the interval.

Before that GB had played most of the hockey and having an early Daly goal - correctly - overturned by the video umpire gave them all the encouragement they needed.

Both Rob Moore and Harry Martin failed to get a touch on Ben Hawes’ driven cross but the breakthrough finally came in the 23rd minute when Daly won a penalty corner.

With regular set-piece specialist Ashley Jackson having a breather on the bench duties transferred to Smith and when his flick was saved by Juan Manuel Vivaldi captain Middleton was on hand to smash home the rebound.

Jackson then tested the goalkeeper with a reverse-stick shot before seeing his far-post dive narrowly fail to connect with James Tindall’s cross.

There then followed a scuffle between players as things got niggly and the interval came at just the right time.

What was even more timely was Middleton’s second goal in the 41st minute.

When Moore set up Jackson to run at the top of the circle it seemed certain he would drive in to shoot but instead he slipped it right and the captain moved the ball on to his reverse-stick before smashing home a low shot through the goalkeeper’s legs.

Daly was sin-binned for a stick tackle before Agustin Mazzilli also earned a temporary suspension for a sliding tackle on Iain McKay.

While both teams were down to 10 men Fox scored his first international goal in his 43rd appearance after a brilliant break saw Jackson carry the ball half the length of the pitch before laying off for the Hampstead and Westminster player to drill home.

With Jackson off the pitch again Smith then succeeded where he had failed in the first half by beating Vivaldi from a penalty corner.

Argentina scored with a set-piece of their own with 15 minutes to go through Ibarra, who later became yet another to be sin-binned as the Argentinians lost their discipline, but it was not enough to spoil the hosts’ party.

* Barry Middleton plays down Argentina rift in The Star, Tuesday July 31.

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