Great Britain: GB continue good form in London

Great Britain made it two Pro League matches unbeaten as David Ralph’s side drew 3-3 with China with goals from Tess Howard, Anna Toman and Charlotte Watson, before winning the shootout 2-1.

Howard gave the hosts the advantage inside the first five minutes with Toman doubling the lead towards the end of the second quarter.

China pulled a goal back midway through the third period to create some nerves but David Ralph’s side were able to hold on for a fourth win in seven Pro League London matches, extending their lead in the fourth quarter through Watson.

The visitors halved the deficit through Ma Ning with just under three minutes to play before Zhong Jiaqi levelled the tie with less than two minutes to go in a remarkable late comeback, the second match in a row between these two sides with a chaotic ending.

Lily Walker and Howard scored in the shootout to put the hosts in a commanding position, with He Jiangxin the sole scorer for Alyson Annan’s side as Great Britain secured the bonus point.

Howard’s goal came after East Grinstead teammate Rayer had already forced a save with a hit inside the opening 60 seconds, with the two then linking up for the goal – Rayer squared for Howard who managed to squeeze the ball past Xinhuan Li.

China finished the quarter the stronger of the two sides but their possession failed to create any chances or circle penetrations of note.

Ralph’s side had a combination of Sophie Hamilton and Jess Buchanan to thank for their clean sheet remaining intact early on in Q2 as a combination of the two kept out a low drag-flick before Buchanan saved superbly from a deflection at the next corner.

Toman soon made China pay for not levelling the scores, her hit being deflected past the goalkeeper via a defender’s stick at a penalty corner to put GB two to the good.

A more open third quarter followed and, with China chasing the game, the majority of the chances came Great Britain’s way.

Ellie Rayer was denied by Ye Jiao in the first minute of the second half from a tight angle before the goalkeeper made a good stop to deny Scot Amy Costello’s drag-flick, her second penalty corner effort then deflected off-target by a defender.

Howard came close to adding her second when a goal-bound effort was stopped by a defender but it was China who added the first goal of the second half minutes later, Zou Meirong squeezing under Miriam Pritchard having been found in space in the circle by Li Hong.

Pritchard kept the home side in front with a good save low down soon after before a great strike across goal from Sarah Robertson narrowly evaded the outstretched pair of Howard and Walker on the back post.

Within four minutes of the final 15, Great Britain got their third. Robertson did well to release Watson, who coolly slotted past the onrushing goalkeeper for her fourth Pro League goal of the season.

The visitors immediately withdrew their goalkeeper to press forward, winning a number of penalty corners late on and creating other good chances.

The first real chance came via consecutive corners with the second hitting the post from Liu Yang before Ma Ning’s off-target reverse strike deflected in from a defender’s arm and was disallowed for danger.

She was not to be denied for long, however, soon squeezing in from close range to give China hope of a late comeback.

Another corner soon after saw Lily Owsley brilliantly deny the first shot before a quickly taken long corner saw the ball find Zhong Jiaqi on the edge of the circle to fire a brilliant reverse into the top corner to send the match to a shootout.

China stepped up first with Zou Meirong facing Miriam Pritchard and seeing her effort saved by the Hampstead & Westminster goalkeeper.

Walker gave the home side the lead with the next shootout, working the goalkeeper well to open up the space to score.

Ma Ning then dragged her effort wide with Howard stepping up for Ralph’s team and comfortably beating the goalkeeper to make it 2-0 after two shootouts apiece to pile the pressure on.

Fan Yunxia failed to beat Pritchard with the fifth shootout overall, the goalkeeper made a super save to give Owsley the chance to win the bonus point, but she was denied by Ye Jiao on the turn.

China got onto the scoreboard through He Jiangxin before Robertson struck the post with her reverse effort, leaving the score at 2-1 with one shootout each remaining.

Pritchard did brilliantly again to deny Chen Yang to secure the bonus point for the hosts.

With the result, GB have taken four points from a possible six against China in this season’s Pro League and now sit seventh, five points behind Belgium with a game-in-hand.

The gap to fourth-placed China, coached by perennial winner Annan, has also closed to eight points with four games-in-hand on their opponents.

Ralph’s team conclude their Pro League London exploits tomorrow against Australia (8pm), live on TNT Sport while China face Germany (2:15pm).

by Great Britain Hockey

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