Argentina Hockey World League Final: Asian giants defeat New Zealand; Leonas & Hockeyroos cannot be separated
POOL B: China are the surprise leaders of Pool B at the end of the first day of action at the Argentina Hockey World League Final courtesy of a fine 2-0 triumph against New Zealand.
That match was followed by a thrilling contest between host nation Argentina and Australia's Hockeyroos, with a sell-out crowd of 6000 enjoying a 1-1 draw which was played at an electrifying pace.
More information about the matches can be found below.
Match 3: China gun down Black Sticks
China got their Hockey World League title challenge off to the perfect start with a 2-0 victory over Pool B rivals New Zealand on day 1 in San Miguel de Tucuman, Argentina.
Goals from Cui Quixia and Huang Ting gave the Asian giants a hard-earned victory, with goal-keeper Li Dongxiao being the star of the show thanks to a string of magnificent saves.
The Black Sticks came into this match as marginal favourites due to their superior placing in the FIH World Rankings, but it was China who drew first blood when Cui Quixia fired home from close range following a penalty corner save from New Zealand shot-stopper Sally Rutherford.
New Zealand had numerous chances to level the scores ahead of the half time break, but they could find no way past China goal-keeper Li Dongxiao, who was in sparkling form throughout the contest.
Despite the Black Sticks dominance, it was China who had a clear chance to double their advantage when a video referral lead to a penalty stroke. However, Wang Mengyu’s weak effort was read perfectly by Rutherford, who palmed the ball away to safety.
New Zealand worked hard to create more goal-scoring in the second half, but China’s defence held firm and limited the Kiwis to half chances before the decisive moment arrived with ten minutes of the match remaining. A speculative pass into the New Zealand circle was slammed home by Huang Ting, wrapping up all three points for China.
Match 4: Las Leonas held by Hockeyroos
Argentina and Australia played out a pulsating, high paced 1-1 draw in the final match of Day 1 at the Argentina Hockey World League Final in Tucuman.
Ahead of the match, which was watched by a noisy sell-out crowd of 6000 fans, Las Leonas attacker Carla Rebecchi was given a special presentation from FIH President Leandro Negre in recognition of her 200th international appearance.
The opening stages of the match were almost completely dominated by the home favourites, as Luciana Aymar and co. delighted the fans with their trademark brand of attacking hockey. The Hockeyroos were impressive in defence, but it came as no surprise when Las Leonas took the lead thanks to a close range deflection from Delfina Merino.
Australia weathered the storm and grew in stature as the match progressed, and deservedly drew level in the 31st minute when a fierce strike into the circle clipped the stick of Ana Rodriguez and flew into the goal.
Both teams had great chances to score in the second half, with Leonas legend Aymar going the closest when she forced a miraculous diving save from Australia’s Rachael Lynch. However, the scores remained locked at 1-1, give both sides a deserved share of the spoils.