The defending Olympic Champion, the Netherlands, first in the FIH World Ranking had a hard time topping Japan, but eventually earned a 3-2 victory. The Dutch opened their 2012 Olympic campaign with a win over Belgium, 3-0, while Japan, ranked 9th in the world, suffered a severe defeat against host Great Britain, 0-4.
The Dutch women were fast of the blocks in the chilly and rainy early morning, and Kim Lammers had a first chance within the first minute of play. She was on target soon after, receiving in front of the empty net a pass from Kitty van Male who had run through the whole Japanese defense on the right of the circle. Lammers could have added a similar goal a few minutes later, but the ball just eluded her stick after a spectacular dive.
The steady rain was affecting the pace of play and half way through the period the Japanese took advantage of some unusual unforced errors from the Dutch defense to create dangerous situations in the circle. They earned a penalty-corner that they failed to control, then they took control of play. Ellen Hoog added a second goal after an outstanding move to eliminate two defenders and slam a reverse shot that surprised Sakiyo Asano in the Japanese goal.
The second period resumed in the same unspectacular way. The crowd bundled up in colorful ponchos were finally given an opportunity to cheer when Kim Lammers scored her second goal of the day (her fourth of the tournament) from a golden pass by Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel after a decisive run on the backline. Japan scored their first goal of the Olympic competition soon after by Rika Komazawa, on hand at the far post to deflect a cross that had eluded all the defenders. They immediately added a second goal on a penalty-corner, Aki Mitsuhashi deflecting the ball from close range above Joyce Sombroek in the Dutch goal.
With 15 minutes to go, the match did not seem a formality any more for the defending Olympic Champions, and the Japanese and Dutch fans became more vocal to push the teams. Lidewij Welten nearly added a fourth goal after a powerful run through the Japanese defense but saw her shot rebound on the post. The end of match was tense and passionate, with the Japanese pushing desperately for the equalizer and the Dutch using all their experience to keep them at bay and protect their narrow lead until the final hooter.
The Netherlands grab their second win of the competition, but surely will not be satisfied with their lacklustre performance of the day.
For more information on NED v JAP, click here.
Belgium vs. China: 0-0 (half-time: 0-0)
The Belgium women earned their first-ever Olympic point today with a well-deserved 0-0 draw against China. The draw was a big surprise to the Chinese, who looked extremely solid in their victory against Korea on Sunday.
Belgium started well, displaying excellent skills. They pushed the Chinese back on their heels and earned an early penalty-corner. Stephanie de Groof slotted a powerful strike out of reach of Chinese keeper Zhang Yimeng, but the goal was denied after a video-referral. Most of play in the opening twenty minutes was in the Chinese defensive half, with a few good opportunities for the Belgians, but the Chinese weathered the storm with experience.
Belgium defended well four penalty-corners against expert flicker Ma Yibo and half-time was reached on a goalless score. The same balanced pattern prevailed at the start of second period. Belgium had a penalty-corner but could not do much of it in front of the fast Chinese runners. They were however playing with poise and skills, and a neutral observer could not have guessed that they were ranked 11 rows behind the Chinese in the World Rankings.
China progressively increased the pressure in the last 15 minutes of the match, played mostly in the Belgian half, but the Belgian defense, well backed by young Aisling D'Hoogue in goal, held tight. The Belgian fans in the stands were starting to see a possible exploit for their team, and the whole crowd were cheering for the underdogs in the final minutes. They forced a penalty-corner with one minute left on the clock and Stephanie de Groof’s shot shaved the outside of the post. Nevertheless, the Cinderella of the competition held on for the 0-0 tie, an excellent result for them.
For more information on NED v JPN, click here.
Great Britain vs. Korea: 5-3 (half-time: 2-1)
The Great Britain women continued to impress its home fans after earning a 5-3 win in a see-saw match against Korea in the second Olympic outing for both teams. With the game tied at three, the hosts scored two goals just over a minute apart to earn their second win in this Olympic tournament.
Georgi Twigg and Chloe Rogers netted the key goals with less than ten minutes left in regulation. Both were the result of solid second efforts and fancy stick work. Great Britain had the game well in control for much of the 70 minutes, but a lapse midway through the second half allowed Korea to edge into the game, creating some tense moments for the partisan crowd.
Nicola White got things rolling just five minutes in when she single-handedly streaked down the right wing, zigzagging around the Korean defense and finishing the play by slipping the ball past goalkeeper Jang Soo Ji. Korea equalized when they found themselves in rare territory in front of the British net. Kim Darae tapped in the easy shot from point blank range.
Crista Cullen restored the spark to the GB when she fired in a penalty corner shot for the 2-1 lead, which stood through the half. Just a minute later Korea pulled goalkeeper Jang Soo Ji in favor of Moon Young Hui.
Great Britain got things started on the right foot in the second half. Just three minutes after the break, Alex Danson gave her team its biggest lead of the match when her penalty corner shot popped up and over the leg of Moon Young Hui. Danson’s day wasn’t all roses, she was carried off the field on a stretcher in the waning moments of the game after sustaining an injury.
But Korea wasn’t finished, as they staged a comeback shortly after the 3-1 goal went in. Han Hye Lyoung ripped a shot in after scooping up the rebound on a penalty corner attempt and four minutes later Park Mi Hyun tied things up when she was left unmarked in front of the British net to finish a tic-tac-toe play.
The win was a big boost for the GB team, which was playing without captain Kate Walsh, who sustained a injury to the jaw in the opening match and is questionable to return to action. But with Danson added to the injury list, the boost may be short lived, depending on her prognosis.
For more information on GBR v. KOR, click here.
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