GB to play Argentina in Champions Trophy hockey gold medal game

[img_assist|nid=3355|title=into the final|desc=GB celebrate their historic hockey Champions Trophy semi-final win over Germany – Frank Uijlenbroek|link=node|align=left|width=365|height=243]GREAT BRITAIN 2 (1)
Sarah Thomas 12 (F)                
Ashleigh Ball 39 (PC)                


Great Britain’s women are through to an historic first ever Champions Trophy final after a confident 2-0 victory over Germany in Saturday’s semi final, which was played in scorching temperatures of 40 degrees.  A goal in either half from Welshwoman Sarah Thomas and Slough’s England international Ashleigh Ball propelled Great Britain into what proved to be an unassailable lead in Rosario.

In the other semi-final world champions Argentina and the Netherlands slugged out a 2-2 draw with the game being decided on penalties. Argentina’s goalkeeper Belen Succi was in match-winning form in both game play and the one-vs-one shootout at the death.

The match will be shown live on BBC Red Button at 11pm, Sunday.

English umpire Frances Block gave a penalty stroke to Argentina for a foul in the circle by Dutc skipper Maartje Paumen which was put away by Noel Barrionuevo to level the match at 2-2. The Dutch went ballistic, but the decision was correct and was upheld on video appeal.

Great Britain began their semi brightly with Reading’s Alex Danson thwarted early on by the quick thinking of Yvonne Frank in the Germany goal.  The opening spell set the tempo for a GB side intent on pressing the Germans in the hot and humid conditions.  Danson threatened again in the tenth minute before the breakthrough two minutes later.  Captain Kate Walsh saw her penalty corner flick saved by Frank, whose clearance only went as far as the edge of the circle.  Laura Bartlett’s ball to the back post found Sarah Thomas, who seemed to have an age to line up her shot, which she coolly squeezed through the goalkeeper’s legs to put Great Britain 1-0 up. 

As the temperature soared the teams took a two minute drinks break midway through the half. Following the restart Germany had two opportunities, a first time shot from Natascha Keller that Reading’s Beth Storry in goal was equal to and a cut-back that flashed straight through the British circle.

But it was Great Britain who would score next.  Just three minutes into the second half and from their second penalty corner, Great Britain extended their lead.  Good work by Leicester’s Chloe Rogers earned the corner, which Ashleigh Ball injected to Crista Cullen at the top of the circle.  Leicester defender Cullen’s strike was outside of the far post and Ball reacted superbly to control the ball as it flew towards her, knocking it into an unguarded goal for 2-0.

The German goalkeeper was called upon again shortly afterwards, pulling off two saves that kept Germany in contention.  Great Britain survived a numerical deficit when Reading’s Helen Richardson found herself taking an enforced rest after being shown a yellow card.  Knowing they needed to press, Germany began to enjoy more possession but could not find the final pass necessary to break down a well drilled British back line. 

With seven minutes remaining Germany withdrew the goalkeeper, replacing her with Nina Hasselmann as a ‘kicking back’, but the move did not pay off.  Ashleigh Ball had a late chance to add to her tally after excellent work along the baseline by Richardson but she failed to connect with the ball in the centre of the circle.

As the hooter sounded Great Britain celebrated together, knowing they had booked themselves a place in Sunday’s Champions Trophy final.

Following the match, Head Coach Danny Kerry said, “It was a controlled win in exceptionally hot conditions.  We have shown great maturity today in coming out and doing the business in a semi final.”

Great Britain captain Kate Walsh said, “We knew it would be a tough game and we knew we had to concentrate and be disciplined.  We took our chances well, we were clinical and I’m proud of the team for this.

Bowdon Hightown’s Sally Walton added, “We have got our just desserts for all the hard work we’ve put in.  It’s out first final and we’ve certainly earned it.  I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Great Britain will play the winner of semi final two, which features Olympic Champions and World number one The Netherlands and World Champions Argentina.  The final takes place at 23:00 GMT on Sunday and will be screened live by the BBC on the red button platform.

The Champions Trophy is the first of three major tournaments for Great Britain ahead of the Olympic Games in London.  From 2-6 May, Great Britain will play in the Olympic Test Event and just seven weeks before London 2012, Great Britain will host some of the best teams in the world at the Investec London Cup in Chiswick.  Tickets for the Investec London Cup will go on sale shortly.



Beth Storry (Reading) Goalkeeper

Crista Cullen (Leicester) Defender

Emily Maguire (Reading) Defender

Anne Panter (Leicester) Defender

Laura Unsworth (Loughborough Students) Defender

Kate Walsh (Reading) Defender

Ashleigh Ball (Slough) Midfielder

Helen Richardson (Reading) Midfielder

Alex Danson (Reading) Forward

Sarah Thomas (No Club) Forward

Nicola White (Slough) Forward 

Used Substitute

Sally Walton (Bowdon Hightown) Defender

Chloe Rogers (Leicester) Midfielder

George Twigg (Clifton) Midfielder

Laura Bartlett (Reading) Forward

Hannah Macleod (Leicester) Forward

Did Not Play

Abi Walker (EuroCanterbury) Goalkeeper

Natalie Seymour (EuroCanterbury) Defender