Murray Wenzel / AAP News
The Kookaburras have survived a rare off night and a spirited England, a controversial goal the difference in their tense 3-2 Commonwealth Games men’s hockey semi-final win.
Boasting a 39-1 Games record and all six titles, Australia was expected to have few troubles on Saturday night at Birmingham University.
But they were pushed to the brink by the hosts, down 2-0 and hanging on for dear life as England peppered with corners and genuine chances in the final quarter only to be denied.
They will play India in Monday’s final after the Indians beat South Africa 3-2.
Daniel Beale’s goal was the difference, allowed on review after protests that teammate Jacob Anderson hadn’t stopped the ball dead before playing on from his hit and raiding the circle.
England coach Paul Revington was heard offering the officials a scathing review after the loss and Beale admitted they weren’t confident.
“One of the more timely goals in my career and very happy for the referral to stand,” he told reporters.
“You don’t know how they’re (reviews) going to go at the moment.
“So the minute it goes upstairs you just have to trust that on-field decision remains then deal with whatever happens.”
England pulled their goalkeeper with two minutes to play and wildly scrambled in the final seconds but fell to the ground in despair as time expired.
England started like a team possessed, seemingly rattling the heavy favourites and breathing belief into a rowdy home crowd that needed no convincing.
An English fast break produced the first goal, Phillip Roper’s shot sailing between Andrew Charter’s legs.
Jake Whetton’s yellow card for a sloppy tackle didn’t help, Zachary Wallace’s penalty stroke was successful after defender Josh Belz had used his body to deflect a shot on goal.
Roper’s yellow card for backchat was a welcome one for Australia, who had struggled to find any rhythm.
A bullet Blake Gover’s drag flick into the bottom left corner helped settle some nerves though and make it 2-1 at the break.
England’s William Calnan was yellow-carded early in the second half for more nuisance behaviour and teammate Thomas Sorsby’s ensuing green card briefly made it 11-on-nine.
Australia couldn’t convert though, waiting until England had their full complement to equalise.
Belz plucked a pass then beat two men, sending the ball forward for Anderson to hammer home his tomahawk shot before Beale’s go-ahead goal.
Coach Colin Batch said his side would take huge confidence from digging themselves out of a hole.
“I’m not sure we were rattled but certainly doing uncharacteristic things,” he said.
“We weren’t as calm and took a long time to settle into the game.”