Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: England 4-1 Ireland

Sam Ward's goals twice gave England a two goal advantage
Sam Ward's goals twice gave England a two-goal advantage

England secured their first win at the Azlan Shah Cup with a 4-1 victory over Ireland in Malaysia.

Barry Middleton and Sam Ward scored two goals apiece, with Ireland's consolation coming from Julian Dale.

Following an opening-round defeat by Australia and a late draw against India, the win leaves England on four points from three games.

Ireland remain at the bottom of the table without a point from their opening three matches.

In a closely fought contest, England's superior finishing proved the difference.

Ireland had more of the possession in the opening quarter but it was England who led at the first break after a penalty corner by Phil Roper was dragged wide to Middleton, who deflected the ball in.

In hot and humid conditions, chances were at a premium during a tight second quarter, when neither goalkeeper had to make a save.

The game sparked into life at the beginning of the third quarter with both sides finding the net within seconds of each other.

England doubled their lead in the 37th minute when Roper's cross was turned home at full stretch by Ward but Ireland responded immediately when Dale's penalty corner beat George Pinner.

Mark Gleghorne struck the crossbar from another penalty corner as England looked to restore their two-goal lead, and they got the breakthrough with seven minutes remaining when Ward scored from close range.

Ireland pressed forward in search of a way back into the game but they were punished on the counter attack in the dying minutes as Liam Sanford ran the length of the pitch before passing to Middleton for a simple finish.

Both teams return to action on Wednesday, 7 March.

Ireland face their forthcoming World Cup opponents Australia at 08:05 GMT before England target a second consecutive win as they face Argentina at 10:00 GMT.