The Hockeyroos secured maximum points from their second match at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup in The Hague as they came from behind to beat Japan 3-2.
Despite needing to rally, National Coach Adam Commens declared it a “satisfying” and “really solid” performance for the team still without injured skipper Madonna Blyth.
The Hockeyroos fell behind against the run of play to a breakaway goal from Yuri Nagai midway through the first period before 2012 World Young Player of the Year, Anna Flanagan, pulled them back into contention with a low penalty corner goal on the stroke of half time.
Emily Smith’s diving diversion of Jane Claxton’s cross put the Aussie women ahead shortly after half time. And, as on Saturday against Korea, a successful video referral won the Hockeyroos a penalty corner, which Flanagan dispatched high into the top corner for 3-1.
However, Australia’s opponents found a way back into the match with just over ten minutes remaining. From a penalty corner, a goal-bound shot was illegally blocked on the line and Shiho Sakai stepped up to slot the ball home into the bottom corner for 3-2.
Despite a late barrage of penalty corners the Hockeyroos couldn’t extend their advantage but good pressure high up the field kept the Japanese at bay until the final hooter. The match marked a 150th appearance for Australia for Ashleigh Nelson and a 50th outing in the green and gold for Kirstin Dwyer.
National Coach Adam Commens said afterwards, “I think it was a satisfying performance from us to go one nil down and then to come back and persevere with the game plan that we had. We were executing it well and creating a lot of chances. Statistically, you can see that we created a lot of goal scoring opportunities and we didn’t concede many.
“We did well and we were unlucky probably not to get a fourth [goal] so I was really pleased with the way that we stuck to our game plan. We got in a position to win the match. It’s a little disappointing that they were able to score to make it 3-2 – it causes a bit of stress for the coach – but ultimately I thought it was a really solid performance and one that was an improvement on the first match.”
Answering questions on the fitness of captain Madonna Blyth, Commens added, “She has a calf injury to her lower leg, it’s a small strain. She will run today and do some training in the coming days and hopefully be ready for the match against Belgium in three days’ time. We envisage that she will be alright.
“I’ll repeat what I said the other day. Missing a player of that standard leaves a big hole in our team. We are very satisfied with the other players in our midfield but we normally play with five midfielders and we’re playing with only four at the moment. We want to keep the structure of our team the same around the group, rather than shuffling and playing less defenders or less forwards. And I think we’ve done a great job to get the points missing a player of the ability of Madonna. It will be great to have her back.”
The Hockeyroos have two days’ break before their third pool fixture, against Belgium, on Thursday. That match gets underway at 10:30am local time (6:30pm AEST / 4:30pm AWST). (Full Schedule here)