China have stunned the Vantage Black Sticks Women 5-3 in a highly competitive FIH Pro League match at Wujin Hockey Stadium China. Despite significant chances throughout the match, China playing with a new attacking flair that proved too much for the New Zealand side.
Coach Sean Dancer commented “China are a skillful solid team and tonight our mistakes hurt us. In the last quarter we started to apply some pressure, and were able to get back into the game, unfortunately it came to late in the match”.
The Black Sticks and China met for the second time in the FIH Pro League. The first time saw the Kiwis came away with a hard fought 2-0 win. China possesses one of the top defences in women’s hockey and have shown throughout the league that scoring goals on them is no easy feat.
The New Zealand side started the match confidently constructing some early opportunities as they looked to set China on the back foot from the outset. China earned the first penalty corner of the match and took the opportunity with a well taken set piece as they deflected the ball into the back of the Black Sticks net.
Looking to get themselves back into the match New Zealand started confidently, but China’s defence was resolute and shut down everything the New Zealand women threw at them as the first quarter wore down.
The Black Sticks were in full attack mode as they tried to get the match back on level pegging. China however forced a turnover deep in the New Zealand territory and put a powerful shot across Grace O’Hanlon to increase their lead.
Starting the second half New Zealand looked to stretch the field and put China under pressure, China was sitting back and picking off the long passes through.
China was playing a new style of play in the match and were looking more and more confident as the game progressed. The New Zealand women had several chances at the beginning of the second half but just couldn’t connect on the final passes.
Late in the third quarter Holly Pearson went agonisingly close to scoring her debut goal but couldn’t beat the goalkeeper on her deflection.
With 10 minutes to go in the match, with China leading 2-0, the New Zealand team earned a penalty corner on a crash ball into the circle. Olivia Merry’s strike went into the goal but as it didn’t touch the backboard was not given meaning the Black Sticks were running out of time to get their opening goal.
China looked to have sealed the match when Bingfeng Gu ripped an outstanding drag flick to make it 3-0, giving Sally Rutherford a no chance to get across to the shot.
New Zealand struck almost instantly back through their captain Stacey Michelsen who picked up a loose ball in the circle and rocketed the shot into back board giving the Black Sticks a sliver of a chance at a comeback.
At 3-1 the Black Sticks stormed back into the match when Shiloh Gloyn got the Kiwis second goal of the evening with five minutes to go in the match after her shot on goal was deflected off the China defender and into the goal. 3-2 China.
However, China then extended their lead in the 56th minute when Qiu Guo found herself unmarked in the circle and snuck a shot between Rutherford’s legs.
In a goal frenzy final few minutes, the last 30 seconds saw the New Zealand women grab their third goal of the evening with a faint touch from a penalty corner to Rose Keddell, to make it 4-3 China. China then had a penalty corner only moments before full time flicking their fifth goal home, as the Black Sticks had no goalie to make the save, wrapping up this exciting encounter 5-3.
Vantage Black Sticks Women 3 (Stacey Michelsen 52 min, Shiloh Gloyn 54 min, Rose Keddell 60 min)
China 5 (Qiuxia Cui 9 min, Xiaoxue Zhang 19min, Bingfeng Gu 51, 60 min, Qiu Guo 56 min).