Great Britain’s women came close to beating Argentina after taking a two goal lead in the third test in Salta, but a strong and physical fight back from Las Leonas in the final quarter of an hour turned the game, and the result, on its head.
Reading’s Jo Ellis and University of Birmingham’s Susie Gilbert had put GB in front after just seven minutes but goals from Noel Barrionuevo, Alejandra Gulla, Daniela Sruoga and Silvina D’Elia in the space of nine second half minutes put Argentina 4-2 up with four minutes remaining. Bowdon Hightown defender Sally Walton pulled one back for GB with two minutes remaining but Argentina held on for the victory.
With Argentina missing their star player Luciana Aymar, who has left the squad after sustaining an injury late in Sunday’s second test, Great Britain began the match with a real sense of purpose that was quickly rewarded with a goal for Jo Ellis. Aiming a shot towards the back post Ellis’ effort was deflected into the goal off the outstretched stick of an Argentinean defender and GB had the lead.
Great Britain were good value for their lead and seconds later, they shocked their South American opponents with a goal from 20 year old Susie Gilbert. In an almost carbon copy of the opening goal, Gilbert’s shot towards goal took a slight deflection and the GB lead was doubled.
Despite the small amount of good fortune that accompanied each goal, GB were thoroughly deserving of their lead, which came as a result of a well organized pressing game that harried Argentina into a series of mistakes.
Danny Kerry’s side took heart from their superb start and did well to thwart any forward momentum Argentina looked to generate. For their part, Argentina failed to enter the British circle for a full 15 minutes and even after they had done so, the GB defence stood firm, denying any clear cut opportunities.
With GB comfortably ahead they suffered a couple of unfortunate decisions that saw them temporarily reduced to ten players. Two green cards were followed by a yellow card to Rebecca Herbert for taking the ball down from above shoulder height and her five minutes off the pitch stretched to nine as the umpires failed to bring her back on.
Just prior to half time Helen Richardson took a ball in the face mask while defending a penalty corner although she was ok to continue.
Into the second half and Great Britain came under pressure from an Argentina side determined to win without national heroine Aymar. A yellow card given to Helen Richardson again reduced GB to ten players as they battled hard to retain the lead.
Throughout the match the hosts registered 15 penalty corners to GB’s four but it took until the 57th minute for Argentina to make a break through; Noel Barrionuevo netting her second of the series.
Six minutes later, Alejandra Gulla netted the equalizer from the penalty spot and the game began to slip from the visitors’ grasp. Two goals from Daniela Sruoga and Silvina D’Elia in the space of 60 seconds then put the game beyond GB, although Sally Walton netted a third two minutes from time, firing a reverse stick effort high into the roof of the net for her first Great Britain goal.
After the bruising encounter, which also saw Alex Danson (foot) and Nicola White (head) treated for injuries and GB play a total of 20 minutes without their full compliment on the pitch, a philosophical Head Coach Danny Kerry said, “We played very well in the first half but after going two goals up the match became quite tough. It’s difficult enough to beat Argentina with 11 players but with ten it is virtually impossible, although we came very close in the end.”
Despite their injuries Danson, White and Richardson are expected to be cleared fit to play in Thursday’s fourth test.
Argentina-Great Britain 4:3 (0:2)
Goals Argentina: Noel Barrionuevo 57, Alejandra Gulla 63 (PS), Daniela Sruoga 65, Silvina D’Elia 66
Goals Great Britain: Jo Ellis 7 (F), Susie Gilbert 7 (F), Sally Walton 68 (F)
Source: Great Britain Hockey ltd.
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