- England beat Malaysia to guarantee qualification
- Trans-Tasman derby draw sees New Zealand qualify
- Scotland and South Africa keep medal hopes alive with wins
Gold Coast, Australia: England and New Zealand were the first teams to qualify for the women’s hockey medal games at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games on the fifth day of play at the Gold Coast Hockey Centre.
England’s win against Malaysia and New Zealand’s draw with rivals Australia guaranteed them qualification for Thursday’s Semi-Finals, with one remaining qualification spot in each Pool still to be determined.
In the Oceania derby, Australia and New Zealand treated a capacity crowd to a thrilling encounter, the only thing missing – goals.
Whilst Australia’s Hockeyroos held more possession and entered their opponents circle more often than New Zealand theirs, this match could have easily gone either way as the action swung end to end.
Although Australia had the best opportunities in the first two quarters, New Zealand’s Black Sticks got into their stride after the half-time break following a strong team talk by their Coach Mark Hager.
Despite chances for both sides, neither could find the crucial breakthrough.
This result means New Zealand are currently top of Pool B with eight points from four matches. Second placed Australia, currently on seven points from three matches, can leapfrog the Black Sticks if they beat Scotland on Tuesday in their final Pool game.
England meanwhile disposed of Malaysia 3-0 to reach the medal games for the sixth consecutive Commonwealth Games.
The 2017 European bronze medallists started this match well, with Susannah Townsend and Hannah Martin missing early chances.
Ellie Watton made no mistake in the seventh minute however as she hit her first goal of the competition after a clever pullback from Laura Unsworth.
England could have doubled their lead in the 17th minute through a penalty stroke, but Giselle Ansley’s attempt was saved superbly by Malaysia goalkeeper Farah Yahya.
They did eventually double their lead in the 34th minute as Martin neatly slotted the ball into the corner of Malaysia’s goal thanks to a crucial assist by Elena Rayer.
Sophie Bray then jabbed the ball over the Malaysian goalkeeper in the 53rd minute to put the match beyond reach.
England could have extended their lead further in the final seconds but for the fine shot-stopping of substitute goalkeeper Huzaimah Aziz who saved yet another England penalty stroke, this time from Ellie Watton.
Earlier in the day South Africa edged Wales 2-0 to pick up their first win of the event to remain in contention for Semi-Final qualification. Goals from Candice Manuel in the 23rd minute and Jade Mayne in the 40th earned a vital three points for South Africa to set up a winner takes all final Pool match against India tomorrow evening.
Speaking afterwards, South Africa’s Sulette Damons said: “It was tough. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, so it was important we started the match well. We defended and attacked well. We put a lot of pressure on across the park, kept the ball and passed well. We had belief, and when we are in a position like this, in a must-win match, we up our performance. It was a very important game and now we still have a lifeline.”
Scotland also picked up their first win of the event as they beat newcomers Ghana 5-0. Five different players got on the scoresheet, with penalty corners from Robyn Collins and Millie Brown plus goals from Katie Robertson, Amy Brodie and Nikki Alexander-Lloyd.
This win means that the Scots can still mathematically qualify for the Semi-Finals, if they can beat defending champions Australia by a big margin in their final Pool B match tomorrow.
Matches in both the women’s and men’s hockey events at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games will be taking place until 14 April. For the full event schedule, click here.
The women’s hockey event at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games is one of the last major international events before the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup London 2018 taking place in England between 21 July and 5 August. Tickets for that event are still available and can be purchased here.
For Gold Coast 2018 hockey tickets, click here.