FIH Pro League: China 2 GB 2 (2-3 pens)
PUBLISHED: 13:44 23 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:44 23 February 2019
Great Britain's women earned their first points in the FIH Pro League after winning a shootout against China.
Having earned a point for their 2-2 draw in normal time, Britain – with Hampstead & Westminster’s Sarah Robertson and Havering’s Emily Defroand – then gained a further bonus point in the shootout to register their first positive result in the league so far.
Anna Toman’s effort was decisive on her 50th international appearance, while goalkeeper Amy Tennant also played a key role in the shootout victory.
Sarah Jones earned her 100th combined GB and Wales cap, while there was an international debut for Holly Hunt and a first goal for Lizzie Neal.
Player of the match Lily Owsley said: “Following disappointing results in New Zealand and Australia we put the pressure on ourselves today to have to win the game. “It was incredibly frustrating to not come away with three points but it was a big step forwards for us and in a long tournament it’s a big positive to get some points on the board.
“I think we’ve learned a great deal in a very short space of time. It’s just the start of this exciting journey and looking forward to seeing where Mark can take this team.”
In front of an enthusiastic Changzhou crowd, it was China who struck the first blow as Meiyu Liang scored with a remarkable volley.
A penalty corner was saved by Amy Tennant, but as it looped skywards, the advantage was played and Liang smashed home first time with a super effort.
Britain played with real purpose in the second quarter, and debutant Hunt almost capitalised on a defensive mixup but saw her effort saved. Soon enough though GB had a goal, Neal producing an excellent finish on the reverse after Hollie Pearne-Webb’s pass was deflected.
Not long afterwards Britain took the lead, Giselle Ansley firing home a rocket of a drag flick to earn a 2-1 half time advantage.
China fought hard in the third quarter, and Tennant had to produce an important save soon after the interval.
There was then more defending to do after possession was lost at the back but Britain held onto their advantage after 45 minutes were played.
China removed their goalkeeper for the final seven minutes, and with GB having just lost their referral, the hosts were awarded a penalty corner in the dying embers of the game after Britain failed to clear their lines. Bingfeng Gu flashed an effort low into the goal and so it was a point apiece for a 2-2 draw.
The home side took the first advantage in the shootout when Hannah Martin hit the post, but Tennant more than played her part in goal to keep GB on the front foot. Erica Sanders and Pearne-Webb scored well either side of a Robertson miss, so it was then left to Toman to score the winner on her 50th international appearance, sending the side home with a further bonus point.
With coach Mark Hager absent as he finalises his work permit, the team were led by David Ralph and it was pleasing for all concerned to end this first trip on a high.
Away games against New Zealand, Australia and now China have offered a challenging start to the FIH Pro League, and a relatively inexperienced squad will have certainly benefitted from time together on the road.
Now with a new coach looking to embed his ideas into the team over time, they will look forward to their next challenges with renewed vigour.
After the best part of a month overseas, the women’s team will have been pleased to end on an upbeat note, and they now look forward to their next games away to USA and Argentina at the tail end of March/start of April.
GB: Tennant (GK), Toman, Pearne-Webb, Ansley, Balsdon, Evans, Jones, Robertson, Martin, Rayer, Owsley. Subs: Hunt, Sanders, Howard, Petty, Defroand, Neal. Unused sub: Cochrane.