Wellington: FIH Hockey Pro League 2022/23 action continued from Wellington, as China faced off against USA in the first meeting between the two sides. Gu Bingfeng scored her first hat-trick in over 4 years as China registered their first win of the season, in a competitive encounter that nearly went down to the wire until two goals by Bingfeng in the final 3 minutes put the game beyond USA’s reach and sealed the win for the Asian team.
China vs USA 4-1
China and USA both came into the contest on the backs of two shoot-out victories over the hosts New Zealand over the past 2 days. In the opening quarter the teams stuck to what worked for them in the first game, with USA relying on their solid deep defence, while China continued to employ a high press, preventing any chance for USA to get out into attack. The opening goal came for China through a penalty stroke after a penalty corner drag flick by Yangyen hit Wolgemuth on her foot on the line. Gu Yangyan stepped up to take the stroke herself and sent Rizzo the wrong way to score the second goal of her young international career.
Coming into the second quarter with a deficit, USA started to push higher in search for an equaliser. Their best chance came through a penalty corner, as a variation allowed Yeager to avoid the rushers and get a drag flick away with force, but the flick was just a touch too close to Liu Ping and she used her left glove to effectively deflect the ball away from danger. Madeleine Zimmer was the best player for USA in the second quarter and a mazy run from the right towards the end of the half saw her cut through 4 Chinese players, but her shot attempt deflected off Zou Meirong’s stick and went just wide.
China doubled their lead early in the second half, with Gu Bingfeng finding her mark from her first penalty corner attempt. Olivia Bent-Cole had a great chance to bring USA back into the game as she was fed by Golini, with just the keeper to get past., but the pass was just behind her and while her first touch allowed her to get the ball past the keeper, it narrowed the angle too much and allowed the Chinese defence to recover and block her shot attempt.
USA scored midway through the final quarter to half their deficit as Amanda Golini smashed a hit from a penalty corner that deflected slightly off a Chinese stick and bounced over the keeper’s stick and into the goal. Golini nearly equalised two minutes later as USA started to press China really high into their own half. Yeager won possession in the Chinese half, broke into the circle from the right and sent a cross towards Golini at the front post, but her deflected shot attempt went just off the mark. With 3 minutes left, China won a penalty corner and Gu Bingfeng restored their 2-goal lead, as a low shot straight down the middle left Rizzo unsighted by her own rushers and the ball snuck in between her feet. China won a penalty stroke with just 90 seconds left in the game as a penalty corner struck the post defender’s foot on the line. Gu Bingfeng, who was on a hat-trick, stepped up and completed the hat-trick, sealing the win and 3 points for China.
Yang Haoting was awarded player of the match and said: “Very happy with this win, as it is the first outright win for us this season. We will be back in action against USA on Friday and we will aim to be even better than today because we are still an evolving team.”
FIH Pro League – 20 February 2023
National Hockey Center, Wellington (NZL)
Result: Women’s Match 21
China 4-1 USA
Player of the Game: Yang Haoting (CHN)
Umpires: Amber Church (NZL), Junko Wagatsuma (JPN), Cookie Tan (SGP-video)
–FIH report and photo