Monday, October 11, 2010

Madonna on song

Captain Madonna Blyth scored the winner as defending champions Australia downed a fighting England 1-0 on Monday to make it to the final of the Commonwealth Games women’s hockey.
Australia, ranked number six to England’s five, will meet the winner of the second semi-final between New Zealand and South Africa to be played later in the day.
Both teams seemed to be going through the motions in a goal-less first half as they struggled to come to terms with the stifling heat at the Major Dhyan Chand stadium.
The heat will be a major factor in Wednesday’s final with the game set for an afternoon start.
“The final will be played at one in the afternoon,” said Australian midfielder Kate Hollywood after her team’s success had left their beaten English opponents in tears.
“It is prime time for us. It suits us the most. I think we have played all our games in mid-afternoon. So we are used to it now. Our opponents will be suffering more.
“It was tough to play England today in this heat. We fought it out and protected our lead. In fact, we had practised protecting our lead, especially in this sort of heat.
“For us, it is about winning the gold and not the silver. We will come out firing in the final. We do not care who we play, we are ready for anyone.” England earned the first penalty corner of the match two minutes from the breather and another one a minute later but failed to convert either with Aussie goal-keeper Rachael Lynch up to the task.
Australia were lucky to get their only goal when Blyth’s strike hit the stick of a team-mate and stumbled into the goal in the 38th minute.
England had no such luck though with striker Nicola White missing the chance to score from a close range inside the ’D’ in the 43rd minute.
England, the World Cup bronze medallists and the highest ranked team in the competition, were also frustrated by a dogged show from the Australian defenders, led by an alert Casey Eastham.
The entire England team sunk down to their knees just as the final hooter went off with many of the players in tears.
England defender Crista Cullen said the team was heartbroken.
“We feel completely gutted,” she said. “We had our opportunities but didn’t convert them early on.
“We had 90 percent of the possession and were all over them, but they got a scrappy goal and defended it with their lives. We outplayed them in every way.
We were better than them. It’s so frustrating.” England have never won the Commonwealth Games gold, although they have two silver and a bronze from three editions.