Dutch delight - women into semi-finals; Japan and Belgium draw
China v. Great Britain 2-1 (half-time: 0-0)
China’s penalty corner prowess saw them reignite their hopes of reaching the semi-finals as they stunned a packed house at the Riverbank Arena, eager to see Great Britain succeed. Their dreams turned to nightmares, though, in a five minute period when Fu Baorong and Yudiao Zhao finished off corner moves in the 42nd and 47th minute.
It lifts the Chinese to seven points and a win in their final group game could put the pressure on Great Britain to get a result against world number one side, the Netherlands. Christa Cullen’s late consolation goal could also prove valuable should the group go down to goal difference.
GB welcomed back their captain Kate Walsh just six days since suffering a broken jaw that required a plate inserted and played with a protective chinstrap. Her defence was not overly tested in the first half as both sides cancelled each other out. Helen Richardson created the first attack in earnest just before the half hour mark, bursting into the circle only to be fouled by a mixture of Ma Wei and Li Hongxia to win a corner.
Walsh’s first drag was charged down while a follow-up set-piece saw Zhang Yimeng produce a brilliant series of saves, twice from Christa Cullen and once from Laura Bartlett. But those proved the clearest chances – bar one Sally Walton slap-shot in the second half – as the defensive work of Ma Yibo and Xu Xiaoxu were immense to limit the chances, channeling most moves out to the corner flag.
And when they finally emerged from their shell, they won the corners they needed to push ahead. Li Hongxia won the first which was switched left before Fu Baorong was credited with a heavily deflected effort in the 42nd minute. Their third corner yielded a second goal as Ma Yibo placed her push to the right post where Yudiao Zhao slid home for a shock 2-0 lead.
Try as GB might, they found entering the circle a virtual no-go zone until the 68th minute when Sarah Thomas was felled. Cullen’s powerful drag got one back but China took all the spoils.
For mor information on CHN vs GBR, click here
Netherlands v. Korea 3-2 (half-time: 2-1)
The Netherlands became the first hockey team to book a ticket in the semi-finals after earning a 3-2 win against Korea. With four wins in as many outings, the Dutch are a top the standings with 12 points, enough to guarantee them a top-four finish.
It was a barn burner early on as Korea and the Dutch treated the fans to an offensive-themed game. Korea’s Cheon Seul Ki blasted a rocket of a shot into the upper corner of the net on a penalty corner chance to poen the scoring. But moments later the Dutch replied with two rapid fire goals. Lidewij Welten tipped in the 1-1 marker and Nami van As followed up moments later to give the Dutch the lead midway through the half.
The Dutch wasted no time getting down to business in the second half, scoring on their initial trip down the field. Carlein Dirkse vsn den Heuvel gave her team some breathing room and set the tone for the second half, essentially dashing the Korean’s hopes for an upset with her strike.
Cheon Seul Ki scored her second goal of the game to pull Korea to within one and put the Dutch on their ties for the finale. But after battling penalty problems for much of the second half, the Koreans didn’t have the gas to get the equalizer as the Netherlands hung on for another three points.
Germany, which plays later today is a virtual lock to join the Dutch in the semi-finals. The two European teams have dominated Group A, which was far more straight forward in its results. The Netherlands now has the luxury of having its semi-final place secure with four days to prepare. Korea will now focus on getting into the fifth-place match, which is easily within reach.
Japan v. Belgium 1-1 (half-time: 0-1)
With both teams well out of the playoff picture, it was a battle for pride in today’s Belgium vs. Japan match. In the end both teams could hold their heads a little higher after they played to a 1-1 draw in an entertaining and competitive battle that had the intensity of a game with the semi’s on the line.
Things got off to a slow start on both ends, but about mid-half Belgium picked things up a notch and were rewarded with a slew of chances, including a shot that dinged off the post on a penalty corner and a chance that had to be saved on the line by Japanese defenseman Rika Komazawa.
Ultimately, it was a penalty stroke from Jill Boon with two minutes left in the half that broke the scoring silence. Japan asked for a video referral on the call, but after review, it was denied and Boon calmly stepped up to the mark and fired the stroke in.
Belgium continued to cling to its slim lead through the second half, doing their best to fend off the speedy Japanese counterattack and they almost pulled it off until Yukari Yamamoto scored after the dove to reach a rebound, tying the game at one. Japan had a chance in the last minute to go for the win when a penalty corner was awarded, but the last minute effort went harmlessly wide and the two teams each came away with a point.
The draw leaves the bottom half of Pool A wide open as Korea, Japan and Belgium could all finish as high as seventh or as low as 12th. Korea currently has three points, Belgium sits with two point after two draws and Japan has one point. Monday’s results will determine who gets plugged into which placement game.