Monday, June 24, 2024

Olympic hockey qualifier: Great Britain women defeat Chile as Tokyo beckons

Izzy Petter celebrates GB’s opener PIC: Will Palmer/Worldsportpics

THP report | Lee Valley

Izzy Petter played a crucial hand in Great Britain’s 3-0 victory over Chile as Mark Hager’s side put themselves to within 60 minutes from securing their Tokyo 2020 tickets.

A beastly wind and driving rain, early nerves and perhaps England’s rugby defeat added to an understandably lacklustre and tight atmosphere at Lee Valley during the opening half. But a sparse home crowd saw the game light up soon after as Petter rattled home from the top of the circle before setting up Hannah Martin late in the third quarter to dampen the Chile Devils’s spirits.

Victory was then made safe when Anna Toman’s PC shot was deflected home off Chile’s first runner. But with aggregate goals the key in these Olympic qualifiers, GB’s Tokyo berth will only be rubber stamped if they can stave off a Chile comeback in Sunday’s second game.

‘We didn’t freak out and even at 0-0 it was a matter of time,’ Lily Owsley admitted later. ‘Mark said that once one goal goes in against Chile, that’s when historically teams get clusters of goals. And a 19-year-old banging a goal in, the weight off my shoulders was magnificent and 3-0 gives us the best possible chance.’

Prior to the goal cluster, the first half lacked any real flow or pinch, the hosts hesitant moving forwards. Chile’s defence, meanwhile, coped with the pressure as GB mounted last third possession. Chile did notch three PCs, each time GB snaffled any danger, Maddie Hinch forced into a low save with their second.

But GB remained composed and Hager’s side came out strongly after the break. On the counter, they were swift and finally they made it count when Petter found herself devoid of any defenders and struck a well-timed low backhand past Claudia Schuler.

Now there was intent as GB asked continual questions of Chile’s defence. Crash balls into the circle had more purpose, Susannah Townsend’s shot deflected wide, Tess Howard trapping and forcing Schuler into a smart save as the Briton encroached upon the byline.

Deep into the third quarter, the game began to get stretched, with one moment of panic for GB as danger forward Manuela Urroz ran the length of the field before a lavish backhand effort racing across goal.

Moments before the third quarter hooter, GB won another PC. Giselle Ansley’s shot deflected into the path of Petter, who passed into the circle melee and Martin squeezed home into a empty net.

The final quarter was all GB, Chile blighted by a late yellow card. It gifted the hosts some space and Leah Wilkinson so nearly scored on her international debut here but was thwarted by the post. First blood to GB.

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