Photo: Yan Huckendubler
By: Ali Baggott, for Field Hockey Canada
Lima, PERU – The Canadian men earned a convincing 5-1 victory over Mexico to open Pool B play at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. Oliver Scholfield and Mark Pearson each tallied twice, while Keegan Pereira also got on the board.
Canada established control early in the game when Scholfield opened the scoring in the seventh minute. The Vancouver native dribbled along the baseline and on a pass to the front of the net the ball inadvertently beat Mexican keeper Jose Hernandez and trickled over the line for a 1-0 Canada lead. The tempo started to settle with Canada holding most of the possession while Mexico did well to stay physical in midfield and deny any dangerous circle attack. In the 14th minute Canada earned a penalty corner but Gordie Johnston’s flick went wide left of the goal.
The second quarter was more of the same, Canada in control but Mexico patiently waiting for their moments. Two-time Olympian Mark Pearson doubled Canada’s lead in the 28th minute as he fired a back-hand shot from a tight angle. The ball rippled the top of the net to give Canada the 2-0 go-ahead. Not two minutes later and Pearson made good on a brilliant pass from Scholfield. Pearson’s size and speed cut off two defenders, while a lifted pull beat a sliding Hernandez and the unguarded net allowed Pearson to make it 3-0 heading in to half time.
Mexico earned a penalty corner in the 34th minute and only needed the one chance to get on the board. Francisco Aguilar’s flick beat Dave Carter glove side to bring Mexico within two, down 3-1. Canada responded in the 39th minute on a penalty corner of their own. Scott Tupper’s drag flick was saved by the out-stretched left boot of Hernandez but the rebound fell to an unmarked Scholfield. From the top of the circle Scholfield pulled the trigger on a back hand and the ball blasted in to the bottom right corner to bring Canada’s lead to 4-1.
Canada went up 5-1 when Keegan Pereira turned and fired with next-to-no space to beat Hernandez glove side in the fourth quarters. Mexico had a glorious opportunity in the other end as Aguilar send a pass to a wide open Miguel Leon but Leon couldn’t handle the pass. Canada had a penalty corner in the final moments of play but Tupper’s shot ricocheted through traffic and Sukhi Panesar’s rebound attempt went wide. Despite the lack of penalty corner scoring, Canada got the result they needed and a 5-1 wins sends them to the top of Pool B.
According to Mark Pearson, every game is important and getting the results early in the event can add to the Canadian team’s confidence moving forward. “This is such a big tournament for every team here. Every game is super important and it was a good team performance,” he said.
In Pool A play, World No. 4-ranked Argentina beat Chile 5-1, while Cuba came from behind to steal a 3-2 win over Trinidad and Tobago. Men’s play continues on August 1 where Canada will play USA at 12:00 p.m. local time (-5 GMT).