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Loss to China leaves Great Britain’s medal hopes on a knife edge

[img_assist|nid=5021|title=Back on the field|desc=Kate Walsh plays against Japan with a protective mask after breaking her jaw jaw six days before – hockeyimages.co.uk|link=node|align=right|width=220|height=129]LONDON, August 4, Great Britain will probably need to take at least a point off defending Olympic and European champions the Netherlands on Monday, if they are to make the Olympic Games hockey semi-finals.

China put a major speedbump on what had seemed like a smooth GB road to the semis, shocking the hosts 2-1. Even the return of injured skipper Kate Walsh, just six days after breaking her jaw, wasn’t enough to secure the draw against China that would have booked a semi-final place ahead of the tough Dutch game.

Two second half corners from China – a slip-left variation to Fu Barong touched in by Ren Ye (41 mins) and a simple right side deflection finished by Zhao Yudiao (47 mins) were enough, although a late Crista Cullen corner made for a frantic fianl minute.

GB are still second in pool A, but China are only two points behind and face far less formidabable opposition in winless Japan on Monday. 

In a game of few chances Helen Richardson  managed to conjure up a penalty corner in the 32nd minute as she was sent sprawling in the China circle. A string of four PCs followed but they were unconverted thanks in one case to a vey good save by Zhang Yimeng from a Crista Cullen driven rebound.

As GB continued to struggle to pick apart a packed defence in the second half. China seized on a defensive mistake to create their first corner chance. They duly stunned the Riverbank Arena crowd. Six minutes later China scored again and put even a draw seemingly out of reach.

The hosts  won their first penalty corner of the half in the 67th minute. Cullen duly produced a powerful drag flick goal. But bar a few last-minute skirmishes it was all over.

GB coach Danny Kerry said: “A very poor error led to the first goal and it is moments like that that mean the game goes against you. 

“China executed their corners well and on such things the game hinges,” he said.

[img_assist|nid=5030|title=Ouch|desc=Anne Panter after receiving a ball to the face – hockeyimages.co.uk|link=node|align=left|width=220|height=146]Skipper Kate Walsh said she was in “no pain” from her injury and subsequent operation to insert titanium plates to stabilise the fracture. “I’m disappointed with the result and with the performance as well. We know we can play a lot better. Our ball retention was poor and we could have been more patient. We just have to bring our game to the Dutch and believe in our game. And we can do that.”

China play winless Japan at 1.45pm on Monday. If the Chinese win they will jump one point ahead of GB into the second semi-final place in the pool. GB play the Netherlands, who have already secured a semi-final place, at 4pm. If China win, GB will need at least a point to make the semi-finals.

Kerry said: “The Dutch won’t want to lose to us, even though they have qualified for the semis. They are a proud nation and defending Olympic champions. They won’t want to lose.”

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