By Anne Porterly
After nearly a month away, Great Britain women earned their first FIH Pro League points and climbed off the bottom of the table – but they will rue a huge opportunity missed against China for a first win.
Anna Toman rallied Great Britain to a shoot-out victory after the Wimbledon player had initially been at fault for China’s late equaliser with under two minutes left as the scores were left tied 2-2 in Changzhou.
The Olympic champions took a 3-2 win in the one-on-ones giving Great Britain a bonus point in addition to the point both teams earned in regular time. Get more than just the regular with these bonus offers available with multiple bookmakers.
World No 10 China had enjoyed the better of the first period and took a deserved 1-0 lead when Liang Meiyu produced a brilliant volley from close range to fire home after an initial save from goalkeeper Amy Tennant.
The Olympic champions were a different side in the second quarter and hit back with two goals: Lizzie Neal with a lovely finish on her backhand and Giselle Ansley with a fierce PC drag-flick into the top right corner.
Lily Owsley, who continues to impress in the Pro League, crashed a backhand shot just wide with three minutes remaining as China replaced their keeper.
However, a rare mistake from the excellent Toman, who instead of taking danger away from the circle decided to dribble back in the D with China attackers lying in await cost the visitors. The hosts were awarded a PC and Gu Bingfeng slammed home.
Sarah Robertson and Hannah Martin missed their attempts in the shoot-out, but Erica Sanders, Hollie Pearne-Webb and Toman, with their last, slotted home.
In between, Tennant produced a superb display to deny Zhang Jinrong, Wang Na and He Jiangxin.
However she could nothing about Mengling Zhong’s audacious attempt: ball juggling from the 23m line before lobbing over Tennant into an open goal.
“It has been a tough journey for us in the Pro League so far”, said the impressive Owsley. “We had zero points so today we put ourselves under a lot of pressure to get points on the board.
“We know China are good, they are skilful. We went out to attack and also to enjoy ourselves. This is the end of quite a long trip for us, but it has been enjoyable and, apart from the results, it has been a massive learning curve.”
Holly Hunt made her international debut against China, with the 21-year-old having been with the 20-strong women’s squad for the past few weeks. Meanwhile, Sarah Jones made her 100th international appearance for Great Britain, while Toman notched her 5th. David Ralph led the women’s team for this fixture, with new coach Mark Hager finalising his work permit to move to the UK in March.
Argentina women defeated Germany 4-3 in a shoot-out point after a 2-2 scoreline in normal time in Buenos Aires. However inclement weather then saw the men’s match cancelled. A long way to go for Germany men, with no extra day scheduled.