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Hockey women await first points

9 August 2016

HOCKEY: The Australian women’s hockey team fell to its second consecutive defeat in Rio, going down 2-1 to the USA, who were inspired by the heroics of goalkeeper Jackie Briggs.

Western Australian Kathryn Slattery bagged her first Olympic goal to give Australia a slim chance of scoring victory, but with the team two goals behind and two players down the Aussie women could not add to their tally.

In an end-to-end contest, much as they had against Great Britain on Saturday, Australia created enough opportunities to win the match but were denied by a combination of Briggs’ saves and missed chances.

“We had more goal shots than them,” said Australia head coach Adam Commens.

“The players created enough chances and ultimately you have to finish. I said that after the last game.

“We scored a goal with nine players. That’s not ordinary. That’s exceptional. I thought that was outstanding. We played with nine players for five minutes and 10 players for 10 minutes and you can’t let that happen in international hockey.”

Briggs denied Grace Stewart with her left foot at full stretch midway through the first quarter, then late in the period, thwarted Stewart again before pulling off a double save from Emily Smith and Stewart.

Australia won the game’s first penalty corner but captain Madonna Blyth’s volley hit the side netting.

USA took the lead with Blyth serving a two-minute green card suspension, perfectly executing a left-slip penalty corner that Michelle Vittese slapped low into the bottom corner for 1-0.

Briggs was proving to be Australia’s nemesis when she denied Georgie Morgan and Jodie Kenny from penalty corners.

Australia then found themselves on the back foot midway through the third period.

Georgie Parker was shown a yellow card and received a 10 minute suspension for a clumsy sliding tackle inside the 23 metre area. From the resulting penalty corner USA made it 2-0. Caitlin van Sickle was the American who knocked it home during the second phase of the corner as Australia failed to clear the danger.

A 2-0 deficit soon became a two-person deficit as Blyth joined Parker on the sideline for five minutes, but encouragingly it was while down to nine players that Australia halved the deficit.

A flowing counter attack move that began with Rachael Lynch’s save saw Jane Claxton and Mariah Williams combine, the latter slipping the ball across to Slattery to finish on her reverse in the middle of the goalmouth.

Moments later it looked as if Williams would find an unlikely equaliser as her diving deflection headed towards goal, only for Briggs to again deny the Aussie forward line.

USA had their chances to extend the lead late on as Australia pressed hard for the leveller but it finished 2-1 with goalkeeper Briggs the US heroine.

Blyth agreed with her coach’s comments.

“Obviously we created a lot of opportunities, as we did in the first match, and when you just don’t get that scoreboard pressure it’s difficult when you go down a couple of goals,” said Blyth.

“They capitalised on their chances, they counter attacked quite well and we couldn’t quite finish. I think if we’d scored one or two earlier when we had those great chances the game probably would have been a lot different.”

Australia’s most capped female hockey player acknowledged that cards and temporary suspensions have hurt Australia, who have conceded three of the four goals they’ve lost so far while with reduced personnel.

“A lack of discipline in the last couple of days has probably cost us a little bit too,” admitted Blyth.

“We actually played really well with nine on the field, we got back into it. That’s not an excuse. We shouldn’t have players sitting on the sideline for unnecessary things.”

It is far from doom and gloom for Australia, however, who are creating the chances to win games.

They are still to play three more matches in Pool B, against India on Wednesday August 10 (00.00 Thursday August 11 AEST), Argentina on Thursday August 11 (07.00 Friday August 12 AEST) and Japan on Saturday August 13 (8.30 Sunday August 14 AEST).

Lawrence West



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