One more to go: Great Britain's women beat New Zealand to secure historic Olympic Games hockey final

Alex Danson scored twice while Helen Richardson-Walsh also found the net to set-up a gold medal showdown with the Netherlands on Friday in Rio de Janeiro

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 August, 2016, 1:26pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 August, 2016, 2:24pm

Great Britain beat New Zealand 3-0 in women’s hockey on Wednesday with two late penalty goals securing victory in a tense and close-fought clash and a place in the Olympic Games final against the mighty Netherlands.

Great Britain led 1-0 at half-time in the semi-final, but New Zealand kept fighting until the women in red made it safe with goals from two penalties in the last 10 minutes.

“It was such a hard game. We had to ride it out,” said Britain’s Nicola White.

“There were some difficult patches. They are so good at counterattacking and they are so quick and skilful. We just had to bide our time then we got free hits and we scored them.”

With a silver medal guaranteed, the Rio de Janeiro Games is already Great Britain’s best ever Olympic women’s hockey performance.

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The Netherlands, defending champions and unbeaten at the Olympics since 2004, will start as favourites to take their third consecutive gold in Friday’s final.

But they were lucky to go through on Wednesday after only beating Germany 4-3 in a penalty shootout after finishing 1-1 in normal time.

The disappointment on the faces of the Kiwi women, who are trying to win their first Olympic medal in the sport, was immense as they left the field.

“I don’t think we got any calls our way that whole game. Disappointing, wasn’t disciplined enough. We just didn’t stick to our structure and didn’t play the way we wanted to play today,” said New Zealand goalkeeper Kayla Whitelock.

Great Britain, cheered on by raucous, singing supporters, were elated at reaching the team’s first Olympic final.

“One more game, one more win, we’ve just got to take our chance this year,” White said. “They had their chances at pressure and we just had to hold on.

The first quarter was end-to-end although Britain had more possession. A good chance fell to New Zealand’s Liz Thompson in the 10th minute but she missed her shot from a penalty corner, then minutes later teammate Petrea Webster lofted over with a shot from inside the circle.

At the other end, Crista Cullen’s penalty corner shot was saved by Whitelock.

Great Britain came out strong in the second quarter and took the lead when Alex Danson picked up the rebound from Whitelock after a penalty corner and found the net in the 21st minute and they held off New Zealand to lead at half-time.

In the third quarter, Great Britain’s Georgie Twigg was felled by a flying ball and spent a few minutes on the ground receiving attention before being helped off the pitch. Giselle Ansley had two penalty corner shots saved as Britain pushed for a second goal.

But some good runs from the black-clad New Zealand showed they were still in the game, Olivia Merry missing a golden chance as she picked up the ball in the circle and misfired.

Great Britain won a penalty in the last quarter after a collision and Helen Richardson-Walsh coolly fired the ball into the left of the goal. A second penalty goal by Danson gave an emphatic ring to the scoreline.

“It’s not luck, it’s not fluke. That’s what these Olympics are all about, grinding out wins,” said Lily Owsley.

“It’s a long tournament and we are not settling for silver. We want to go all the way. We are going for gold.

“(The Netherlands) have never liked playing us and we’ve had good games against them a few times this cycle but we’ll give them the respect they deserve. It’s all set up for the perfect final.”

Great Britain’s women beat New Zealand to take bronze in London in 2012, ending a 20-year Olympic medal drought. They also took bronze in Barcelona in 1992.

New Zealand, who beat Australia 4-2 to reach the semi-finals, still have a shot at the bronze against Germany, also on Friday.

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