Saturday, August 16, 2008

Olympic round-up: Day Seven

A crucial day of the women’s competition saw the Netherlands become the first side to confirm their spot in the semi-finals with Maartje Paumen doing the damage with another two drag-flicks – she now has seven in total – in a 2-1 win over Australia.

The two teams started off equal opponents in the first half, with the Dutch dominating the early stages, but the Hockeyroos having a good few opportunities towards the end of the first half.

Sarah Young’s slap from close range gave Hockeyroos the lead Paumen, roofed the ball to send the teams into halftime at one all.

After the break, it was open battle but the Dutch edged ahead and controlled the game thereafter. They are now three clear of Australia with a game to go. China, though, have taken second spot on goal-difference with a 6-1 win against Korea and will face the Ozzies in a straight decider for a semi-final spot.

Tang Chunling broke the shackles of early Korean resistance for a 2-0 lead, despite conceding six corners in the first-half. Korea pulled one back midway through the second half but, by that stage the game was well beyond them at 5-1 – Chunling getting a hat-trick – before Fu Baorong made it six with her third of the day, too.

In the other match, Spain resisted a strong challenge from South Africa
in the final match of the day, winning 1-0. The goal arrived four minutes before half time, when Maria Romagosa driving a powerful penalty corner beyond South Africa goalkeeper Mariette Rix.

POOL A: 1. Netherlands (12, +9), 2. China (9, +10) 3. Australia (9, +8), 4. Spain (6, -6), 5. Korea (0, -8), 6. South Africa (0, -13)

Pool B is shaping up for a thrilling final day with nobody assured a semi-final place, Germany, Argentina and GB all in the mix, with USA with a very outside chance.

Argentina hit form for the first time in the competition, with Luciana Aymar showing why she is the world’s best player as Las Leonas beat pool leaders Germany 4-0. Goals from Claudia Burkart, Alejandra Gulla (2) and a terrific strike from Aymar gave Argentina the victory, and now need to beat bottom side New Zealand to seal their progress into the medal matches.

Both sides had chances in the first half, with Aymar and Germany’s Maike Stoeckel both with decent opportunities. However, the first half finished goal-less, meaning Argentina really needed to come out firing at the start of the second half to keep qualification in their own hands.

Argentina finally opened the scoring from a powerful penalty corner slap-shot from Burkart in the 38th minute. The relief was evident for all to see and it turning to ecstasy in the 49th minute when Gulla scored a typical poachers goal from close range.

Gulla scored her second of the game in the 66th minute before Aymar picked up the ball at the top of the circle and fired an unstoppable shot past Germany keeper Kristina Reynolds to complete the scoring.

Great Britain salvaged a precious win against Japan to climb to third place. The first half saw little side getting much good possession but a well-placed Anne Panter got GB in front in the 32nd minute.

Keiko Miura leveled with 58 minutes gone but, with a renewed sense of urgency, Great Britain picked up the pace and besieged the Japanese goal. It seemed to no avail until the last minute of play, when they won a dubious penalty-corner. They did not develop a guilt-conscience and slammed into goal by Crista Cullen after an elaborate combination, 32 seconds from the end to win 2-1.

In the first game of the day, USA stayed just about in contention with a comprehensive 4-1 victory over New Zealand. They must win their final match against Great Britain by a big score and hope Argentina lose against Japan. Britain must win and hope either of the top two slip up, with Argentina facing bottom-side New Zealand.

Pool B: 1. Germany (9, +3), 2. Argentina (8, +5), 3. Great Britain (7, -2), 4. USA (5, +1), 5. Japan (4, -1), 6. New Zealand (0, -6)

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