Alex Danson’s late winner four minutes from time secured victory for Great Britain’s women against the World’s number four side Germany (2-1) in the first of two test matches at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre.
Her powerful reverse stick shot through Germany goalkeeper Kristina Reynolds in the 66th minute gave Great Britain their 11th win in 29 contests against the Germans in a game in which Great Britain dominated for long spells without fully capitalizing on their sustained pressure.
Earlier, Kate Walsh had opened the scoring for the hosts from a first half penalty corner only to see Jennifer Plass level things for Germany three minutes later. The victory was Great Britain’s third win over Germany in four meetings on home turf.
Head Coach Danny Kerry handed a senior international debut to 19 year old University of Bristol student Georgie Twigg, who plays her club hockey for Clifton in the England Hockey League Women’s Premier Division. The youngster began the game on the bench but only had to wait seven minutes before coming on to taste top level international hockey for the first time.
Great Britain began well, going forward with purpose and enthusiasm but were met with a well organized German defensive unit that prevented them entering the circle to any effect.
In fact it was Germany who threatened first through Lina Geyer but her cut back from the baseline only found the waiting Kate Walsh who mopped up the danger.
With just over ten minutes on the clock Bowdon Hightown’s Sally Walton did well in the right channel, creating the space to fire her cross towards the mouth of the goal but the German defender cleared with GB forwards lurking.
Soon after, Germany won the first penalty corner of the match, which was quickly followed by the second after captain Fanny Rinne’s flick hit the foot of Leicester defender Crista Cullen. Cullen again got to the second, this time with her stick, and the danger was cleared.
At the midway point of the first half Germany were enjoying possession but Great Britain were repelling all efforts to force the ball in through the top of the circle. On the one occasion that Germany did penetrate Beth Storry’s back line the Reading goalkeeper herself dealt comfortably with Katherina Otte’s deflection in front of goal.
Having weathered the German possession Great Britain passed their way back into the match and good work by Reading forward Alex Danson won GB their first penalty corner. After beating two defenders on the edge of the German circle Danson’s pass hit the foot of the third resulting in the award. Germany were out quickly at the corner however and Cullen’s flicked effort was blocked by the number one runner, although the danger remained and Great Britain quickly won their second penalty corner.
Spotting the defender leaving the post on the second corner, Kate Walsh’s low flighted flick past the outstretched left leg of Kristina Reynolds nestled into the bottom corner to put Great Britain 1-0 up with 22 minutes on the clock.
It was not long before Germany responded to level things just three minutes later. A pass into the circle found Eileen Hoffmann in front of goal and she deflected the ball on to Jennifer Plass coming in off the baseline. From an acute angle Plass knocked the bouncing ball into the net to make it 1-1.
Beth Storry was called upon to save Maike Stockel’s reverse stick shot with her left glove soon after and Great Britain countered well to win their third penalty corner after an upgraded free hit inside the 23m area. After succeeding with her previous effort Walsh elected to go for the same corner but Germany had learnt their lesson and had a player stationed on the line to clear. Cullen then saw a penalty corner flick kicked clear by Reynolds.
As the half came to a close Great Britain were again in the ascendency, pinning Germany back inside their half.
The second half began as the first had, with Great Britain pressing Germany. On three occasions in the opening five minutes of the half the German defence had to deal with passes into the circle from the wings as first Slough’s Ashleigh Ball and then Leicester’s Katie Long and Bowdon Hightown’s Sam Quek created the space to fire in a cross.
In the 42nd minute good work by Quek and University of Birmingham midfielder Susie Gilbert resulted in a fifth British penalty corner, which Cullen saw deflected over the bar the last defender.
With ten minutes of the half played Britain were in complete control and Alex Danson was narrowly beaten to Walsh’s through ball on the penalty spot by goalkeeper Reynolds as Germany struggled to maintain any meaningful possession.
Reynolds was called upon again shortly, smothering the ball on the baseline as Sally Walton looked up to pick out a teammate in the middle.
Germany embarked on a promising looking breakaway with just under 20 minutes remaining but Great Britain cleared the danger, albeit unconventionally, from Celine Wide’s pass to Stockel inside the circle.
At the other end, Alex Danson broke strongly through the middle, her pace taking her to the top of the circle from where her reverse stick shot was deflected high over the bar by a last ditch defensive lunge.
With the game entering its final ten minutes Great Britain began to show signs of tiredness with passes going astray in the final third and Storry was again called upon, this time blocking comfortably from an acute shot.
Five minute later, Great Britain won a free hit on the right hand side of the Germany circle just inside the baseline. Katie Long found Alex Danson on the edge and she turned inside to fire off a shot towards goal. With Kerry Williams diving in looking for a deflection Reynolds could do nothing more than kick the ball straight back to Danson who jinked around a German defender before powerfully hitting a reverse stick shot through Reynolds and into the goal to put GB 2-1 up with just four minutes remaining.
There was still time with just a minute left for Germany to win a penalty corner at the other end. Deviating from their two efforts in the first half, the Germans switched the ball left from the top but the resulting effort sped low past Beth Storry’s right post and the final whistle blew on a Great Britain win just moments later.
For all their possession Great Britain Head Coach felt his charges could have played better against the team placed three places above them in the world rankings. Speaking afterwards he said, “Defensively we did well. Germany couldn’t run the patterns they wanted to but we should have hurt them far more convincingly than we did based on the possession we had. I’m disappointed at the lack of energy we showed late in the game when we were poor at getting into good positions.”
Great Britain-Germany 2-1 (1-1)
Goals Great Britain: Kate Walsh 22 (PC), Alex Danson 66 (F)
Goal Germany: Jennifer Plass 25 (F)
Source: Great Britain Hockey ltd.
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