Wellington: The final game from the Wellington mini-tournament of the FIH Hockey Pro League 2022-23 was played between China and New Zealand, where the visitors’ offence dominated, winning 14 penalty corners through the game and scoring 5 goals from their 13 shots to end their second mini-tournament with a win on Sunday.
New Zealand vs China 2-5
China had a brilliant start to the game spending the opening 5 minutes in and around the Black Sticks’ circle. They earned an early penalty corner as well, but the ball wasn’t stopped cleanly at the top of the circle and the opportunity was missed. A second penalty corner in the 9th minute was taken by Gu Bingfeng and her low shot hit the post defender’s foot and led to a penalty stroke which was dispatched with ease by Bingfeng to open the scoring for China.
A penalty corner by Bingfeng in the opening minute of the second quarter forced a fantastic save by Brooke Roberts, diving low to her right as China searched for a second goal to increase their cushion. New Zealand’s first penalty corner led to a stroke as a deflection from the right hit Gu Yangyan on the foot in front of the goal. Olivia Merry stepped up to take it and scored to bring New Zealand level against the run of play. China restored their lead in the 23rd minute as a cross from the left fell to Zhang Xiaoxue who dragged the ball to her reverse and scored with a powerful tomahawk shot. China doubled their lead soon when a cross into the New Zealand circle was met by keeper Roberts, but her clearance fell straight to Zou Meirong, whose shot across the face of the goal was deflected in by Chen Yang.
New Zealand started the second half more positively and won an early penalty corner. They once again looked for the variation, looking for a deflection from the right, but this time Lench could not make contact and the chance was missed. New Zealand halved the deficit late in the third quarter from a penalty corner. Merry’s first attempted hit was well blocked by the first rusher, but the ball fell to Merry once again and her second attempt was deflected in at the far post by Hannah Cotter, who scored the second goal of her international career, after scoring the first in the game against USA a mere 24 hours ago.
China won a string of penalty corners in the final quarter and got incredibly close to scoring as Gu Bingfeng’s drag flick hit the left post and came away. A minute later China scored their 4th from another penalty corner, opting for a variation as Gu Bingfeng’s low shot was deflected brilliantly by Chen Yang, completely wrong footing Brooke Roberts in the goal. Penalty corners kept coming for China and they added a 5th goal in the 55th minute, with another variation as Gu Bingfeng sent a low driven pass to the right of the goal, where Liang Meiyu dived to get a touch that snuck through the legs of the post defender sealing the points for China.
Chen Yang was awarded player of the match and said: “Really good performance and win today. We gave our 100% and this was close to a perfect performance for us.”
Following the conclusion of the mini-tournament in Wellington, the top-3 in the Women’s Pro League table retain their places. Argentina stay top with 14 points from 8 games, followed by Germany who have 13 points from their 8 matches. Netherlands follow closely with 12 points from just 4 games. China now move up to 5th with 10 points from 8 games, followed by Australia who took 8 points in their opening mini-tournament. New Zealand and USA are in 6th and 7th after their first set of matches, with both teams taking 5 points, followed by Belgium who also have 5 points from their 4 games. Great Britain are in last place having not opened their account after 4 games.
Action now moves back to Australia as a mini-tournament begins in Hobart from 28 February. Both men’s and women’s teams will be in action as Australia, Argentina and Spain play in the men’s competition, while it will be Australia hosting defending champions Argentina, and USA in the women’s tournament.
FIH Pro League – 26 February 2023
National Hockey Center, Wellington (NZL)
Result: Women’s Match 24
New Zealand 2-5 China
Player of the Game: Chen Yang (CHN)
Umpires: David Tomlinson (NZL), Cookie Tan (SGP), Rachel Williams (ENG-video)
Black Sticks register first win of the season in FIH Hockey Pro League 2022/23
–FIH report and photo