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Aussie girls win golden thriller

20 January 2013

HOCKEY: Australia has won gold in the Australian Youth Olympic Festival (AYOF) women’s hockey tournament after registering an inspiring 2-1 come-from-behind victory over China.

Having played out a draw in yesterday’s pool match, both teams arrived at the pitch prepared for a tight battle.

The Australian defence was made to work hard early on in the tussle for gold. Their high work-rate began to lift the midfield players who applied a lot more pressure to their opponents and won the ball in the middle of the pitch.

But it was China that opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a deflected field goal to Zhang Xiaoxue which was completely against the run of play.

Much like yesterday’s match, China’s lob pass began to cause havoc for the Jillaroos’ defence and they were fortunate not to concede a goal in the same fashion as a pass across goal narrowly missed its target.

A penalty corner resulted from that play but it was magnificently kept out by the Australian goalkeeper Audrey Smith.

Australia was able to contain the ball in their territory for a lot of the first half and make a number of solid runs forward but struggled to find an effective pass into the goal circle or win a penalty corner.

The rock solid Chinese defence was able to hold the Jillaroos goalless for the first half and take a vital 1-0 lead into the break.

Australia finally managed to draw a penalty corner three minutes into the second half but Madison Fitzpatrick’s effort was saved by Chinese keeper, Ye Jiao.

China then had three consecutive penalty corners five minutes into the half and it was the third opportunity that they thought had doubled their advantage. But after a discussion between the umpires it was disallowed.

Jiao made a terrific save of Australia’s best shot of the match from a penalty corner, but the Jillaroos forced another penalty corner almost immediately after and it was the pup of the squad, Fitzpatrick who added another goal to her impressive tournament haul.

Following the equaliser the game lifted in intensity as both teams made a number of fast breaks down the pitch knowing that they would need to find at least one more scoring opportunity to take the gold medal.

The 57th minute resulted in China winning another penalty corner and the Jillaroos defence and the huge Australian crowd had their hearts in their mouths as the shot was narrowly deflected wide.

Jillaroos outfielder Meg Pearce made a game changing block when China had players clear in the circle and were all but certain to score.

With less than three minutes on the clock and overtime looming, Australia’s Murphy Allendorf made a tremendous run across the top of the circle and flicked a dangerous ball into the area that was cleverly directed into the back of the net by Kathryn Slattery to hand the Jillaroos the lead. 

China took a gamble and substituted goalkeeper Jiao for an outfield player, but it was to no avail as Australia saw off the remaining two minutes to record an outstanding 2-1 victory.

“That was phenomenal, with only a couple of minutes left to be the one that scores the winning goal is obviously is an incredible feeling,” Australian match-winner Kathryn Slattery said.

“I just can’t get the smile off my face, I’m just so excited.”

Chinese team manager Yuxiang Liu said his girls can hold the heads high after pushing the Jillaroos right to the final minutes of the gold medal match.

“Although they are very young, they have played in such a big tournament and come away with second place,” he said.

“They played I think quite equally with Australia in the final and played a very exciting game so it’s good for them.”

Earlier in the morning, Great Britain recorded a win of their own when they defeated USA 2-1 in overtime.

USA scored in just the third minute with an excellent field goal from Elena Marie Bolles.

Great Britain was quick to get back into the game equalising with a field goal from Lara Parsley.

The game then remained 1-1 until the end of regulation time, taking it to golden goal.

Great Britain’s Hannah Martin was the hero as she converted a penalty corner eight minutes into extra time to hand her team a Youth Olympics bronze medal.

Beau Greenway

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