Great Britain stormed to a terrific 4-0 victory in their first match of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Riverbank Arena this evening. A brace from Reading’s Alex Danson, together with goals from Sarah Thomas and Bowdon Hightown’s Sally Walton in an explosive first half, ensured that the home nation delighted an excitable and vociferous home crowd on the first day of the hockey competition.
The match was also milestone occasion for Reading defender Emily Maguire, as she capped her 100th international appearance with a resolute defensive display that restricted the Japanese attack to only three attempts on goal during the entire match.
Following the game Great Britain’s double goal scorer Alex Danson said, “It feels incredible [to score] but I just want to win. We’ve worked so hard as a squad on our goal scoring and it worked today, so that’s obviously something for us to feel very happy about. I don’t mind who scores so long as we score one more than them.”
“It’s a great start for us but we think of this as any other tournament. We can enjoy this while we’re having our horrible ice bath and then it’s thinking towards the next game because we don’t want to do it in one game, we want to do it in them all.”
After a cautious opening five minutes, with Japan looking slightly livelier, the match broke into life when Clifton’s GeorgieTwigg intercepted a loose defensive clearance in the Japanese half to drive into the shooting circle. The midfielder was unlucky not to opening the scoring as she fired the ball past the outstretched arms of Sakiyo Asano, but narrowly over the bar.
Nevertheless, Great Britain were not to be denied for much longer and they took the lead in the seventh minute. Following three long corners, Reading’s Helen Richardson eventually evaded two challenges and threaded a pass to find Danson free in the circle, who coolly lifted the ball past Asano with a reverse stick shot to open the Great Britain account at 1-0.
In the 14th minute, Japan registered their first meaningful attack on Reading player Beth Storry’s goal when SachimiIwao flashed a great pass across the circle, only for Masako Sato to agonisingly miss out on connecting with the ball with her stick at the back post.
Alex Danson then won a penalty corner following a foot infringement in the circle and Leicester’s Crista Cullen brought out the best from Asano when her powerful drag-flick was turned away low down to the Japanese keeper’s right hand side.
The home side were not to be kept waiting long for a second goal and three goals in the space of five minutes crushed any Japanese hopes of coming out of the match with any of the spoils. Reading’s Laura Bartlett found Leicester’s Chloe Rogers on the left hand side of the circle and the midfielder delivered a low pass into the corridor of uncertainty for Sarah Thomas to steal in from close range and double the lead for Great Britain after 23 minutes.
Shortly after, they stretched their advantage even further following a penalty corner set-play. Asano flat-patted Great Britain and Reading captain Kate Walsh’s drag-flick away from goal, but not far enough away from the danger zone to prevent Twigg finding Walton at close range. The Bowdon Highton defender claimed her second goal for Great Britain as she finished off the move by cutely dinking the ball into the roof of the net using the reverse of her stick to make it 3-0 in the 25th minute.
Great Britain further hammered home their ascendency in the 28th minute when they made the score 4-0. Following a sublime reverse ‘round the corner’ pass from Richardson, Danson grabbed her second goal of the game after expertly sliding the ball past Asano. The Reading forward nearly completed a first half hat-trick just before the interval but struck the ball over the bar.
Japan came out with a renewed vigour after the interval but try as they might, they could not break down a defensive unit that was intent on keeping Storry’s goal intact.
In the 49th minute, excellent build-up play from Richardson led to a Great Britain penalty corner from which Cullen again forced a dramatic save from Asano to keep the score at 4-0. The Japanese goalkeeper continued to frustrate and thwart the home nation when an interchange of passes between Danson and Rogers led to the striker forcing another block from close range in the 59th minute.
Cullen came close to adding to the goal tally but her strike from a penalty corner clipped off the right hand upright and there were no more scoring opportunities of note.
Unfortunately, there were injury concerns for Great Britain Head Coach Danny Kerry. Captain Kate Walsh left the field late in the second half after sustaining a facial injury. Kate was taken to hospital and is undergoing a medical assessment. Helen Richardson was also forced to leave the field when a lifted ball struck her on the knee.
Speaking after the game Great Britain Head Coach Danny Kerry said, “I thought that was a very thorough performance. We controlled the game and that led to good penetration. We took our chances in the first half. I felt we were tight and disciplined. In the second half we hit the post and their keeper made a good save.”
Great Britain women’s next match at the Riverside Arena will be on Tuesday 31 July at 16.00 against Korea, who lost their opening game 4-0 against China today.
Your next chance to see Great Britain hockey live on the BBC will be at 19:00 tomorrow (30 July) when the men take on Argentina at the Riverbank Arena.
Great Britain Hockey Media Release