Great Britain’s women claimed their first points of the FIH Pro League thanks to a shoot-out victory over host nation China in Changzhou.
The Olympic champions took a 3-2 win in the one-on-ones, giving the Europeans a bonus point in addition to the point both teams earned when regular time ended with the score locked at 2-2. The result moves Great Britain up the standings to seventh position, while China now sit in ninth place. To see the complete women’s FIH Pro League standings, click here.
China and Great Britain came into this match – the first FIH Pro League fixture to take place in Asia – searching for their first points in the competition, with both nations having suffered defeats in Oceania at the hands of New Zealand and Australia.
China (FIH World Ranking:10) enjoyed the better of the first period and took a deserved 1-0 lead over Great Britain (WR:2) into the quarter-time break thanks to a late strike from Liang Meiyu, who produced a brilliant volley to fire home after an initial save from goalkeeper Amy Tennant.
The Rio 2016 Olympic champions looked like a completely different side in the second period and hit back with two goals in quick succession. Twenty-year-old Lizzie Neal restored parity with a cool finish on her backhand, guiding her sweep-shot inside the right post for her first international goal before Giselle Ansley put Great Britain into a 2-1 lead when her unstoppable penalty corner drag-flick sailed into the top right corner.
There was no change to the score in a relatively cagey third quarter, although Amy Tennant was twice called into action when Yong Jing and Zhong Jiaqi threatened.
In a bid to salvage the match, China replaced their goalkeeper with an outfield player with six minutes to go. It was a tactic that almost backfired when GB twice went close, the second of which saw Player of the Match Lily Owsley crash a backhand shot into the side-netting with three minutes remaining.
However, a rare mistake from the excellent Anna Toman with two minutes left to play resulted in a penalty corner to China. It was a chance that the home side would not waste, with Gu Bingfeng slamming a penalty corner into bottom left corner to deny the visitors all three points and force a shoot-out.
The one-on-ones proved to be the perfect place for Toman to atone for her earlier error, scoring the winning goal after Amy Tennant produced an superb goalkeeping display to deny Zhang Jinrong, Wang Na and He Jiangxin.
“It has been a tough journey for us in the Pro League so far”, said Great Britain’s Player of the Match Lily Owsley. “We had zero points so today we put ourselves under a lot of pressure to get points on the board. We know China are good, they are skilful. We went out to attack and also to enjoy ourselves. This is the end of quite a long trip for us, but it has been enjoyable and, apart from the results, it has been a massive learning curve.”
The FIH Pro League action continues on Sunday (24 February) with the action returning to Buenos Aires as Argentina host the Netherlands men and women. To see the match schedule, click here.