England’s hopes of reaching a first Commonwealth Games men’s hockey final was ended in cruel and controversial fashion as Australia overturned a two-goal deficit to win 3-2.
Goals from Phil Roper, his fifth of the tournament, and skipper Zach Wallace gave England a shock 2-0 lead in Birmingham.
But Australia – who have won men’s gold every time since hockey was introduced into the Games in 1998 – levelled through Blake Govers and Jacob Anderson before Daniel Beale struck the fourth-quarter winner.
Monday’s gold medal match will be between Australia and India, while England play South Africa in the battle for bronze.
Wallace said: “You know the Aussies are going to come out and throw punches, and that was our game plan to throw punches back.
“We started hard and fast and got them running the other way. But to get over the lines in these games you’ve got to have the complete performance, and maybe a bit of inexperience told giving away a few cards.”
England were unhappy with the nature of Beale’s winner, feeling the Australian had allowed the ball to roll before a free hit was taken.
Wallace said: “The message we got at the start of the tournament was that the ball had to be stopped.
“That’s why we reviewed it. We didn’t think they made an attempt to stop it, but the video ref gave what he did so we’ve got to live with that.”
Australia, ranked number one in the world, were hot favourites to make a seventh successive Commonwealth Games final.
The Kookaburras had also won their previous five matches against England, with their last defeat coming at the 2014 Champions Trophy.
But England, ranked sixth in the world, started on the front foot and forced a series of penalty corners, the last of which produced a skirmish and David Goodfield firing wide.
Australia slowly got on top and home goalkeeper Oliver Payne stood tall to foil Govers, Aron Zalewski, and Joshua Beltz.
From the last of those chances, England launched a superb counter-attack and Roper raced onto Wallace’s pass.
The angle was tight but Roper drilled the ball between the legs of goalkeeper Johan Durst to send the capacity crowd wild.
England doubled their lead four minutes into the second quarter when Nicholas Bandurak’s penalty corner hit an Australian player on the line as it was going into the goal.
Wallace stepped up to convert the free stroke, easily beating the static Durst.
Stuart Rushmere had a chance to increase the lead before Govers, having been denied by Payne at his near post, halved the deficit from a penalty corner.
Will Calnan was sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes at the start of the third quarter, and England were really up against it when Thomas Sorby’s suspension saw them reduced to nine men.
Australia piled on the pressure but struggled to create clear-cut chances before a huge roar greeted Calnan’s return.
But the Kookaburras equalised through Anderson’s powerful reverse finish after he found space down the left.
The goal stood after a video referral but England refused to surrender.
Bandurak’s effort was cleared off the line by Flynn Ogilvie and the stretching Chris Griffiths fired over the top.
But Australia withstood late home pressure to leave England attempting to emulate picking up the bronze medal won in 1998, 2014 and 2018.
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