Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Oz-Kiwi battle for women's hockey gold
New Zealand hockey players celebrate after scoring a goal against South Africa during the women's semifinal match.
For the first time since hockey came on stage in the Commonwealth Games in 1998, New Zealand came in line with Australia for a gold medal contention, here on Monday. In an absorbing duel that stretched till the final seconds, the Kiwis edged out South Africa by a solitary goal.
Early in the day, Australia, the reigning champion, entered the final with an identical margin accounting for the exit of England.
That the Kiwis had to put every ounce of their energy to coast towards victory is well reflected in the margin. The South Africans matched them move for move with the dangerous striker, Pietie Coetzee, lurking in the area.
Though the focus was riveted on the burly Katie Glynn, the consistent scorer, it was the splendid midfield work by the skipper Kayla Sharland that stood out in the match. Aided well by Anita Punt and Krysal Forgession, the Kiwi raids carried an element of danger. Emily Naylor contributed her might, making a goal-line save from a shot by Coetzee.
The South Africans had three penalty corners against the zero by their opponent in the first half. In fact, the Kiwis had their first only midway in the second half. The second led to the goal, and eventually, the match winner.
An attempt by Katie Glynn was thwarted by goal-keeper Mangisa but Clarrisa Eshuis made it memorable for the Kiwis with a deft flick.
In a contest that rarely crossed the parameters of mediocrity, possibly because of the searing weather conditions, the Aussies fought England. On form, England was expected to be in the title fight. Despite being more organised and fluent, thanks to the good work by Charlotte Craddock on the right and from Georgie Twigg, England failed to consolidate the advantage. Content be to more circumspect, the Aussies waited for its chance. In fact, its first penalty corner surfaced only early in the second half. A crafty deflection by skipper Madonna Blythe following a penalty corner by Jessica Nicole ended the party for England.
The Aussies managed to cling on to this slender lead notwithstanding the valiant efforts made by the England players who were hunting for the leveller until the last 10 seconds before the hooter.
Deprived of a possible podium finish, India did its best to take fifth place. Winner of the gold and the silver respectively in the last two editions, the home team made heavy weather of the rival, Canada, although eventually it picked up three goals. The frontline suffered from excessive individualism making the Canadians group in well inside the circle. Goalkeeper Azelia Liu baulked a few attempts.
Flat hits from Rani Ramphal did nothing to disturb the rival custodian. But she was unlucky to see her brilliant backhander thud against the upright and curve out of play late in the first half.
India had to wait till midway in the first half for the lead, which came when Ritu Rani capitalised on a forward pass from Chanchan Devi. The struggle to enlarge the lead was clear in the second half.
The resistance from Canada was stiff. Nearing the end, Saba Anjum revealed the wealth of her experience. A neat pass helped Chanchan net late in the second half; Saba did the finishing job to a loping run by Ritu Ramphal, the goal synchronizing with the hooter for the third goal.
The results: Women: (9-10): Trinidad and Tobago 2 (Blair Wayne, Stacey Ann) beat Malaysia 1 (Fazilla Sylvester); (5-6): India 3 (Ritu Rani, Chanchan Devi, Saba Anjum) beat Canada 0. (7-8); Scotland 1 (Alisa Robertson) bt Wales 1 (Shara Thomas) (Tie-breaker 3-1)
Semifinals: Australia 1 (Madonna Blyth) beat England 0; New Zealand 1 (Clarissa Eshuis) beat South Africa 0.