LONDON (Reuters) - Australia showed why they are the hot favorites to win the Olympic men’s hockey gold on Wednesday when they ripped apart a Spanish side visibly shaken by losing to injury a second top striker in as many games.
World Champions Australia beat Beijing silver medalist Spain 5-0 in a game overshadowed by an injury to 34-year-old Pol Amat.
The Spanish striker fell over an Australian player in the 23rd minute. He was led off the field with medical staff holding his arm and taken to hospital.
The Spanish hockey federation later confirmed Amat had dislocated his shoulder and would be out for at least two to three weeks, a serious set-back to the medal ambitions of Spain who were already missing their captain.
Santi Freixa, who denied Australia a place in the Beijing final four years ago by scoring the semi-final’s only goal, broke his left arm in the team’s 1-1 draw against Pakistan two days earlier.
“The three games without Pol and Santi will be tough for us, but we have to play. We will have to win and reach the semifinals. We will have to,” said Spanish goalkeeper Francisco Cortes after the game.
Australia had made a strong start, taking the lead with a well-placed flick by Russell Ford in the 10th minute, followed less than five minutes later by a Matthew Butturini goal from seven meters and Spain never recovered.
Despite encouragement to move forward, the Spanish side, down 3-0 at half time, kept all 11 players in their own half during most of the second 35 minutes of the game and limited Australia to two more goals.
Australia now has an impressive 11 goals from just two matches and leads Group A with six points.
In the day’s second match, outsiders Belgium were close to upsetting the Dutch, playing more aggressively than the Netherlands - where hockey is a national sport.
In the end, the Belgians lost 3-1, after two penalty corner goals from Dutch corner specialist Mink van der Weerden, and a last minute score from Bob de Voogd, who slammed the ball into an empty goal after Belgium substituted their goalie to add a field player in a last-ditch attempt to gain a point.
Additional reporting by Iain Rogers in Madrid, Editing by Nigel Hunt