Hockey: Black Sticks beat Great Britain with stunning goal

By David Leggat

Stacey Michelsen scored the only goal in the Black Sticks' 1-0 win over Great Britain. Photo / Getty
Stacey Michelsen scored the only goal in the Black Sticks' 1-0 win over Great Britain. Photo / Getty

New Zealand are on the board at the women's Champions Trophy after a 1-0 win over hosts Britain in London today.

They got the win through a brilliant individual goal in the opening minute by midfielder Stacey Michelsen and were well worth the win, creating more chances, having more circle penetrations and looking more threatening going forward than Britain.

The result keeps the fourth-ranked Black Sticks in the hunt to be playing for medals later in the week, after they had lost their first two matches, 6-2 to the world No 1 the Netherlands and 3-1 to Australia.

Michelsen showed why she's rated among the game's finest players when she picked up possession about 25m out from the British goal.

She weaved past five defenders before rounding goalkeeper Maddie Hinch to push the ball into the net.

New Zealand's defence generally coped well with Britain's attacking moves and they were distinctly sharper on the counter attack with the pacy Anita McLaren, Gemma Flynn and Sophie Cocks causing Britain plenty of problems.

Goalkeeper Sally Rutherford was rarely challenged, although she pulled off one important save shortly before the end of the third quarter, which was Britain's best, after strong work down the right from their best attacker Sophie Bray.

Rutherford also had to be alert in the final minute and combined with Rose Keddell to do enough to put off Susannah Townsend as she dived forward to try and nudge the ball into the Black Sticks' goal only to push it wide.

The defensive operation was solid, anchored by Brooke Neal, Liz Thompson and Julia King and captain Kayla Whitelock made her first appearance in the tournament, after resting a minor leg injury.

By the end of the match, New Zealand had made 18 circle penetrations to 10 by Britain; had made 11 shots on goal compared to six by the hosts.

In the day's other games, the Netherlands beat the United States 4-1 and Argentina toppled Australia 2-1.

"In the first quarter we were sensational, then we had to scramble a lot," Black Sticks coach Mark Hager said.

"Our defence scrambled well and sometimes when you're not playing well that's what you want.

"We put our chance away and they didn't, but we've got to be better holding the ball. They hurt us through the middle of the field for most of the game and we didn't handle it well."

Michelsen paid tribute to her team mates for their part in her goal.

"The good thing was we had really good leading off the ball which created a lot of space for us girls carrying the ball forward, which we didn't have the other day," Michelsen said.

"The pleasing thing was we had better spacing up front today."

Strikers Olivia Merry and Gemma Flynn both had chances early in the second half while Petrea Webster was unable to capitalize on a clear chance, a mishit ruining the opportunity to cement the win three minutes from the end.

Michelsen reckons they are on the right track, after a poor start to the tournament.

"After the first couple of games we were feeling a bit deflated, given that Rio (Olympics) are so close.

"But the important thing is realising we still have a good few games against the top teams for us to build. We definitely will be ready once we get there, but we are not there yet."

New Zealand next face world No 2 Argentina early on Friday morning.

- NZ Herald

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