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England begin Hockey World League with comfortable win

PUBLISHED: 08:04 16 June 2017 | UPDATED: 08:04 16 June 2017

England face the camera after beating China in their Hockey World League semi-final opener at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre (pic Simon Parker/England Hockey)

England face the camera after beating China in their Hockey World League semi-final opener at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre (pic Simon Parker/England Hockey)

Copyright 2017 Simon Parker, all rights reserved

England 2 China 0

England celebrate Barry Middleton's goal against China at the Hockey World League semi-final at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre (pic Simon Parker/England Hockey) England celebrate Barry Middleton's goal against China at the Hockey World League semi-final at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre (pic Simon Parker/England Hockey)

England got their Hero Hockey World League campaign underway in the best possible fashion as they eased past China in front of a home crowd at Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre last night.

With a World Cup spot at stake, England were in search of a positive performance to start their tournament in the best possible fashion and they duly delivered.

The squad featured many members of the Great Britain side that won the Azlan Shah Cup back in April and they bristled with confidence throughout the game against a compact Chinese side.

But two breaches of their opponent’s defence in the 11th minute was all they needed, as Barry Middleton - making his 380th international appearance - scored the first goal, before winning a penalty stroke that Mark Gleghorne duly converted seconds later.

Scotland's Tim Atkins goes past Talwinder Singh of India at the Hockey World League semi-final at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre (pic Simon Parker/England Hockey) Scotland's Tim Atkins goes past Talwinder Singh of India at the Hockey World League semi-final at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre (pic Simon Parker/England Hockey)

With the game set under a dazzling east London sunset, the opening exchanges were fairly cautious as both sides looked to settle into the game and develop a rhythm.

The game’s first clear chance then fell to China in the seventh minute as Wenlong E narrowly failed to nudge home a low driven cross at the back post.

That sparked the hosts into life and they took the lead just four minutes later as Middleton tucked the ball home following a clever pass by Sam Ward.

Just seconds later, and with the raucous fans still cheering the first goal, England doubled their lead as Gleghorne dispatched a penalty stroke high above Ming Cheng after Fenghui Lu fouled Middleton in the D.

Aside from a Gleghorne shot that flashed over the bar following a skilful run, that was the end of the action for the first half with Bobby Crutchley’s side content taking a two-goal lead into the break.

Gleghorne and Middleton were again at the heart of the action in the second half as England pushed to further their lead as they forced Cheng into an impressive double save in the 39th minute.

Cheng was called into action again twice more, firstly to deny Gleghorne from a penalty corner before stopping a Liam Sanford shot with his chest while at the other end George Pinner remained a spectator as England closed out the game comfortably.

In front of a beautiful vista, the supporters remained in good voice throughout and can now look forward to Sunday’s crunch game against Olympic champions Argentina, who beat Korea 2-1 in the first match of the competition on Thursday.

England: George Pinner (GK), Henry Weir, Brendan Creed, Michael Hoare, Liam Sanford, Ollie Willars, Ian Sloan (C), David Ames, Adam Dixon, David Goodfield, Barry Middleton, Harry Martin, David Condon, Phil Roper (C), Sam Ward, Mark Gleghorne, Chris Griffiths. Unused: Harry Gibson (GK).

*After battling back from long-term injury, Chris Grassick opened the scoring for Scotland to shock the world’s sixth-ranked team India earlier on day one.

The Scots led at half time, but India dug deep after the interval with four goals to take all three points.

Scotland are next in action on Saturday (6pm) when they face another powerhouse in the Netherlands, who beat Pakistan 4-0 in their opening match.

*The Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre plays host to India vs Pakistan in the Hero Hockey World League on Sunday (2pm), the same day as the two cricket sides do battle in the ICC Champions Trophy final.

With the hockey set to take place during the cricket lunch break, both games are set to be watched by a huge global TV audience.

With England also facing Argentina on Sunday, tickets are in high demand and an extra stand has been opened to accommodate demand.

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