Coach gives China a grilling despite win over Kiwis

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 August, 2007, 12:00am

It was not all black for New Zealand last night. Two second-half goals brought smiles to the faces of the Black Sticks, who walked away with their pride intact despite going down 5-2 to China in a friendly at King's Park.

Asian powerhouses China - they are the top-ranked Asian side in the world at number five - have just one thing on their minds and that is to win the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics next year. They will have been unhappy with their performance last night, despite emerging winners.

'Everything we do now is aimed towards preparing for the Olympics,' said China coach Kim Chang-back, a South Korean who has been in charge of the women's squad since 1999.

This comment was made before the game. There was no chance of talking to him afterwards as he was haranguing his side in no uncertain terms, clearly unhappy with their overall play. In contrast, his counterpart was all smiles.

'This was a lot better. It is a big improvement,' smiled Kiwi coach Kevin Towns, referring to his side's 6-0 thumping at the hands of South Korea on Tuesday. 'We are starting to see more shape and there was more confidence in our play today.'

China started with a bang. Three goals in the space of a couple of minutes early in the first half conjured up visions of another hammering. But instead of wilting, the Kiwi defence hung in there and the midfield started stringing together moves to keep their fancied opponents quiet. The woodwork denied New Zealand twice before half-time as China led 3-0.

New Zealand skipper Lizzy Igasan put her side on the board when she struck home a penalty stroke and there was further joy when Jaimee Claxton deflected a free hit past the Chinese goalkeeper. But China kept their noses well in front with two goals, one coming right at the death when skipper Ma Yibo converted a short corner.

'This is certainly a better result than 8-1. We can take some positives out of this game,' said Towns. The last time the two sides met, in June at the Champions Challenge, China won 8-1.

'Everything is coming along nicely. It would be nice to finish this trip with a win over India,' added Towns.

New Zealand who are here on an acclimatisation trip for the Beijing Olympics, end their week-long stint with a game against India tomorrow. The Chinese will be here longer - they aim to take home the Asia Cup, which begins on Saturday.