Hockey: Black Sticks poor in defeat to Argentina

By David Leggat

Petrea Webster scored in the 4-2 defeat to Argentina.
Petrea Webster scored in the 4-2 defeat to Argentina.

New Zealand chose a bad time to turn out a poor performance when they were beaten 4-2 by Argentina in their penultimate round robin game at the women's Champions Trophy in London today.

The match statistics were pretty even, but New Zealand frittered away possession too often, conceded a couple of soft goals and were made to pay for it by the world's No 2-ranked team. The result leaves them out of the running to play for the gold and silver medals.

"We didn't come to play today," unhappy coach Mark Hager said.

"In the first half we were very poor, didn't move the ball early enough and went into our shell, and even when you're battling you can't afford to do that, and Argentina punished us."

Not for the first time in the tournament, New Zealand were hurt by poor umpiring, which cost the third goal.

Japanese official Emi Yamada ruled that a firm reverse stick shot by star Argentina attacker Carla Rebecchi had come off the back of her stick. She whistled when the ball was in mid-air.

The replay showed it was a fair goal but New Zealand could complain the initial decision should have stood.

Both teams had 16 shots on goal, Argentina edged the circle penetrations 24-23 and had 55 percent of possession while fourth-ranked New Zealand had three penalty corners to two.

However Argentina took their opportunities better, some of New Zealand's defensive play bringing the ball out from their defensive circle was poor and Argentina had the most effective players on the park in Rebecchi and Maria Granatto.

The early signs were encouraging, both Petrea Webster and Charlotte Harrison got shots in on goal, and Argentina's opener had a touch of luck about it. Florencia Habif's shot from Argentina's first penalty corner deflected off a New Zealand stick past goalkeeper Sally Rutherford.

However Rutherford was at fault with the second eight minutes before halftime. Her block off a ball driven in from the right was totally ineffective and rolled the ball straight to Rebecchi in front of goal, who doubled the lead.

Argentina were starting to take a grip on the game and when Rebecchi's second goal came two minutes after the restart, things looked grim.

To their credit, New Zealand smartened up, showed greater urgency and were rewarded through a good goal by Sophie Cocks, swivelling under pressure to send a firm shot into the Argentine goal.

She thought she had a second goal, with a neat deflection, only for Argentina to successfully refer the incident, which showed the ball had subsequently deflected off Cocks' shin.

Granatto was always a handful for New Zealand's defence and her cracking individual goal, beating a couple of defenders before thumping a shot past replacement goalkeeper Amelia Gibson's left hand, sealed the win.

There was a late consolation goal for Olivia Merry after an out-of-sorts Anita McLaren and Kelsey Smith had set it up four minutes from the end.

But there could be no complaints at the outcome. New Zealand might also be fretting over a leg injury to key defender Liz Thompson in the first half.

''We were just poor with our basic skills today," Hager said. ''We need a few more players stepping up in tough times. Whether it's Olympic selection nerves I don't know but at the moment we've got two or three players playing well."

New Zealand need to beat the seventh-ranked United States in their final round robin game on Sunday morning to have a chance of playing for third place.

- NZ Herald

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