LONDON, 29 July – New Zealand beat Oceania rivals Australia for the first time in five attempts at the Olympic Games, winning the opening match of the London 2012 tournament 1-0 at the Riverbank Arena on Sunday.
Cathryn Finlayson (NZL) scored the tournament’s first goal in the third minute when she knocked in a loose ball after a Kayla Sharland (NZL) penalty corner had been saved by Toni Cronk (AUS).
Australia responded well with Georgia Nanscawen in particular causing lots of problems for the New Zealand defence and Megan Rivers was unlucky with a strong shot that hit the base of the post and rebounded to safety.
Clarissa Eshuis (NZL) and Anna Flanagan (AUS) both had penalty corner attempts saved, Australia’s coming when their penalty corner specialist Jodie Schultz was off the field.
New Zealand made the Olympic Games’ first team referral, contesting an Australia penalty corner in the 33rd minute. They had their referral upheld, Australia lost their penalty corner chance and New Zealand led 1-0 at half-time.
Both teams had chances after the break, but it was Charlotte Harrison and Sharland who went closest to increasing New Zealand’s lead.
In the 46th minute Australia also used the team referral system, in an effort to earn a penalty corner, but lost their chance when the video umpire ruled against them.
New Zealand then lost Melody ooper because of a yellow card suspension, but earned their third penalty corner while down to 10 players, thanks to good build-up play down the left from Gemma Flynn. Katie Glynn’s flick was well saved by Cronk low to her right.
Australia pressed for an equaliser in the final 10 minutes with Casey Eastham (AUS) forcing Bianca Russell (NZL) to make an important late save.
With two minutes remaining, Australia removed goalkeeper Cronk to give themselves an extra outfield player. Teneal Attard donned a bib, but the tactic provided no reward and New Zealand got their pool stage off to a winning start with a 1-0 victory.