Monday, July 30, 2012

Defending champions beat Belgium

By Yan Huckendubler

Netherland vs. Belgium: 3-0 (half-time: 1-0)

Second match of the day was between defending Olympic Champion, The Netherlands, ranked #1 in the world, and the Cinderella of the competition, Belgium, coming in the Olympic Games ranked 16th in the world. The Dutch women were loudly cheered by a huge contingent of fans all clad in orange, while the Belgian women looked tense during the anthems for their first ever match in Olympic competition.

As expected, The Netherlands dominated the early stages of the match without giving the impression of exerting themselves too much, circulating the ball wide of the Belgium defensive block. Maartje Paumen saw her first attempt at penalty-corner deflected on the post by young Aisling D'Hoogue in the Belgium goal, then Margot van Geffen followed up with a powerful shot that flew inches wide of the post. Play was limited to one half of the pitch, but the Dutch players could not beat the Belgium defense regrouped in the circle, and they peppered the outside of the goal when they had a chance to shoot.

They finally opened the score with only two minutes left in the period with a deflection from close range by Kim Lammers, receiving a perfect long ball from Eva de Goede, celebrating in style her 100th International Cap. The modest one-goal lead for The Netherlands at half-time was not reflecting the physiognomy of the game, but there was little doubt on the outcome of the contest.

The Dutch women continued their domination of play in second period, having most of the ball possession, and Kim Lammers scored her second goal of the match with another deflection from close range over the Belgian goalkeeper, this time on a pass from Ellen Hoog running around the Belgian defense on the right of the circle.

With rain suddenly starting to fall on London, pace of play abated a couple notches. The Netherlands scored a third goal on penalty-corner by Caia van Maasakker, a late addition to the Dutch team after the injury to Willemijn Bos, then rolled on to an easy win over a Belgian team which, to their credit, never gave up the fight, even forcing a penalty-corner in the last minute of play.

For more information on NED v BEL, click here.

China vs. Korea: 4-0 (half-time: 1-0)

First match of the midday session was between Asian rivals China (ranked 5th in the world) and Korea (ranked 8th). With rain falling steadily at the beginning of the match, it took some time for the crowd to get into cheering mode and for the match to pick up pace. Korea forced a penalty-corner in the opening minutes, but could not produce much from it.

Both teams were playing with similar styles, disciplined defense and swift counter-attacks, however creating very few clear opportunities for goal. China had a penalty-corner in the 15th minute, but Ma Yibo’s low shot for an option fizzled. They had another opportunity in the 25th minute and this time Ma Yibo slotted her flick high and out of reach of Moon Young Hui in the Korean goal.

With the sun making a timid return, the end of the period was much more animated, with a few hot situations in the Chinese circle, but no other goal was scored before half-time, reached with a meagre one-goal lead for the silver medallists from Beijing, and the impression was that the contest could go either way.

Korea started the second period faster to try and force the equalizer quickly. They swarmed the Chinese circle, had a chance on penalty-corner which was totally unsuccessful, kept pushing and had a better attempt on their next penalty-corner which was well covered by Zhang Yimeng in the Chinese goal. The Koreans were still trailing by the lone goal and seemed to be on the verge of equalizing when Zhao Yudiao made the most of a loose ball in the opposite circle to score the second Chinese goal and establish a more comfortable lead.

The Chinese players suddenly seemed to find their second wind and promptly earned a penalty-stroke. Li Hongxia made no mistake to push the score to 3-0, setting an insurmountable climb back for Korea. The game became rougher and the two teams traded cards, with China down to nine players for a few minutes. In the final minutes, Ma Yibo scored her second penalty-corner of the match (doubling on the first day of competition her goal-tally from Beijing, where she only scored once in 18 penalty-corner attempts) and China grabbed their first win with a comfortable margin (4-0).