Last years Champions Trophy finalist China bounced back at the AtaHolding Champions Challenge in day four action in Baku, Azerbaijan. The Chinese team defeated Korea 2-0 and is now the co-leader together with the Korean formation. USA won against New Zealand 1-0, while England put the same score on the scoreboard against Azerbaijan.
USA 1 defeated New Zealand 0
Goal: USA: April FRONZONI PC 70m
April FRONZONI scored a dramatic last minute winner for the USA over New Zealand, in a match of few clear chances. The win moves USA onto 7 points from four games, and puts them in a good position before the weekend matches.
Despite missing key defender Lizzy IGASAN through injury, New Zealand looked comfortable for most of the first half, with goal keeper Anita WAWATAI not genuinely tested until an 18th minute penalty corner strike from Laura CRANDALL. However, USA dominated the last ten minutes of the first period, with Captain Tiffany SNOW looking dangerous going forward. USA were not affected by the half time break, and continued to push New Zealand back.
However they could not find the breakthrough, giving New Zealand the chance to get back into the game. The Black Sticks were then further boosted by the departure of Rachel DAWSON who received a yellow card for deliberately blocking the ball with her foot. New Zealand had their best chance of the game when Caryn PAEWAI crossed from the right to the far post, but Kimberley NOAKES could not get the vital touch in front of goal. USA took control of the game once more when DAWSON returned to the field, putting New Zealand under considerable pressure. With just 15 seconds left to play, USA won a penalty corner. Knowing that it would be the last action of the game, USA pressed all their players forward. Inevitably, it was Rachel DAWSON who had the final say, striking the ball onto the stick of April FRONZONI to win the match and keep USA in the hunt for a top two finish at the tournament.
China 2 defeated Korea 0
Goals: CHN: Sun ZHEN FG 18m, TANG Chun Ling PC 27m
China produced another good performance to Korea in the second match of the day, thanks to goals from Sun ZHEN and TANG Chun Ling. The result puts them top of the table, due to their superior goal difference over their opponents.
The first half was thrilling to watch, with both teams aiming to play fast, attacking hockey. The first half was an even contest, but China were more clinical than Korea in front of goal. The opening goal came from the stick of Sun ZHEN, whose slap-shot completely deceived Ju Young LIM in the Korea goal. The second goal followed in the 27th minute, when TANG Chun Ling tapped in a sensational 5 pass penalty corner routine. Korea were stunned into action, and almost equalised from a Seul Ki CHEON penalty corner, but China goalkeeper ZHANG Yi Meng pulled off a magnificent save to put the high flick around the post to safety.
China were undoubtedly the best team in the second half, controlling the game and reducing Korea to speculative efforts and half-chances. Korea making many unforced errors, whilst China were solid in defence and impressive in attack. China could easily have added to their tally, and surely would have done had it not been for some goalkeeping heroics from Ju Young Lim.
China will play England in the opening match of the Day 5, with Korea playing New Zealand. Victory for both would secure their places in Sunday’s final.
England 1 defeated Azerbaijan 0
Goal: Rachel WALKER FG 61m
England managed to grab a 1:0 victory over host nation Azerbaijan in the last match of Day 4, moving them onto seven points before they face in-form China on Saturday.
The game started very brightly, with England enjoying early pressure and possession. However, it was Azerbaijan who looked likely to open the scoring, winning four penalty corners in a two minute spell. One of the corners was struck into England’s star player Crista CULLEN, who subsequently left the field with injury. However, England keeper Katy ROBERTS showed her quality to keep the score at 0:0. England dominated the last part of the first half, but could not open the scoring.
The second half saw England come out of the blocks quickest, but Azerbaijan defended superbly to block out numerous attacks. England took the lead in the 61st minute through Rachel WALKER, who picked up the ball to the right of the circle and fired into the bottom corner. Azerbaijan immediately went on the offensive, but could not find an equaliser.
In their next match Azerbaijan will play the USA, still looking for their first victory of the tournament.