By Michael Stafford-Jones
- Alex Danson scores twice to set up emphatic 3-0 win
- Helen Richardson Walsh adds a third from the penalty spot
- Excellent defending from GB restricts New Zealand’s chances
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – GB women beat New Zealand 3-0 to reach the Olympic hockey final for the first time in their history.
Great Britain’s women’s will face the Netherlands in their first-ever Olympic hockey final on Friday after an impressive 3-0 win over New Zealand.
Alex Danson led the way with two goals, one a penalty stroke and the other a tap-in following a penalty corner. Helen Richardson-Walsh also scored a penalty during a disciplined GB performance.
Blacksticks captain Kayla Whitelock was yellow-carded for conceding the first penalty stroke with a cynical challenge on Helen Richardson-Walsh. Liz Thompson fouled Lily Owsley for the second.
Crista Cullen and Georgie Twigg suffered nasty-looking head injuries in the second quarter. Cullen made a brave tackle and got a cut on her forehead, while an unfortunate deflection directed the ball into Twigg’s face. Both later returned to the field and will hopefully be fine for Friday’s final.
A commanding defensive display was central to GB’s semi-final win, as centre-backs Kate Richardson-Walsh and Laura Unsworth, ably supported by full-backs Cullen and Sam Quek and substitutes Hollie Webb and Giselle Ansley, prevented New Zealand from creating many clear-cut chances.
The Blacksticks looked at their most dangerous from penalty corners, with Gemma Flynn twice going close in the first half. GB keeper Maddie Hinch reacted sharply to block her second effort.
Anita McLaren almost equalised late in the first half from a penalty corner, but her drag-flick went just wide. Early in the second half, Cullen and Richardson-Walsh made important blocks from penalty corners, and New Zealand barely threatened from that point on.
With the defenders doing their job superbly at the other end, it was up to GB’s attackers to produce the goals. Richardson-Walsh and Danson duly obliged to take their respective tournament tallies to four and five.
Helen Richardson-Walsh told BBC Sport: “We didn’t feel nervous; we were confident. They got chances but were never scoring and we were thinking that it was going to be our night.”
And Danson told greatbritainhockey.co.uk: “To come away from a semi-final and be going into a final is unbelievable. But you can’t forget what’s got us here. It’s been one game at a time, building momentum, recovering and playing again. We’ve got one more to play and we won’t change anything about how we prepare.”
The win was Great Britain women’s seventh in a row and maintained their 100% record in the Rio 2016 Olympics. They topped Pool B with 15 points, then easily beat Spain 3-1 in the quarter-final to secure their semi-final place. If they are still unbeaten after Friday’s final, GB women will be proudly wearing gold medals around their necks.
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