London Prepares, Hockey Test Event: Great Britain 2-0 Argentina.

Great Britain maintained their 100% record and struck a psychological blow to their opponents ahead of the rematch in tomorrow’s final. In a repeat of the Champions Trophy Final in Argentina earlier this year the home side exacted a degree of revenge over their rivals.

The game started with Britain on the front foot, Alex Danson linked up well with Natalie Seymour and Laura Bartlett, going close to getting on the end of the latter’s cross in the fifth minute.

The home side forced two corners in the opening exchanges, but first Crista Cullen and then Kate Walsh saw their efforts comfortably saved by Laura Del Colle in the visitors’ goal.

Argentina could have gone ahead in the 12th minute as Carla Rebecchi robbed the otherwise excellent Georgie Twigg, burst into the D and sent a reverse-stick shot fizzing wide of the far post. It was a good chance for Las Leonas and a let-off for the hosts.

It didn’t seem to affect them for long as in the 15th minute Alex Danson gave her side the lead with a trademark goal. The Great Britain No15 picked the ball up just inside the 25 and drove into the D, faced with two defenders she produced a lovely spin and a reverse stick shot that whistled into the bottom corner to the delight of the crowd.

On 22 minutes another strong run by Danson was rewarded with a penalty corner as she was fouled by two players just outside the D. This time Kate Walsh slipped the ball back to the injector, Ashleigh Ball who calmly deflected the ball home. Argentina felt the goal should not be given, but had already used up their video referral and the decision stood.

Argentina’s discipline was proving to be costly as they racked up a series of 2 minute suspensions, hardly helping their troubles with breaking down a solid home defence.  On 27 minutes they managed to engineer a chance as Daniela Sruoga saw her effort blocked by Beth Storry and the rebound cleared by Georgie Twigg. Storry kept out a penalty corner from the same player and then was up quickly to save the follow up from Rebecchi.

There was still time for Crista Cullen to find Ball in the D, but the Slough star was unable to get her shot on target and the score at half time remained 2-0.

Argentina came out in the second half in search of an early goal. They almost got it as Rocio Sanchez Moccia burst into the D, with just Storry to beat, the bounce was not kind to the Argentinean whose shot went flying over the bar.

This seemed to jolt the hosts into life and an excellent move involving Cullen, Sarah Thomas and Helen Richardson saw the latter’s cross find Hannah MacLeod. Leicester’s top scorer was unable to get a shot off as she was fouled, winning a penalty stroke. Cullen stepped up to take it, a goal would leave Korea qualifying for the final and not Las Leonas, however the defender’s penalty went wide of the target with the keeper going the wrong way.

Carla Rebecchi sent a drag flick wide and Alex Danson was denied by a sliding save from Del Colle as the game started to open up a little.

Argentina forced a series of penalty corners, seemingly hitting Crista Cullen with alarming regularity. With a minimum of fuss, the defender shrugged off the series of hits to her body and continued to make life difficult for the visitors from set pieces. On the occasions they did avoid the Leicester defender, they found Beth Storry in no mood to surrender her clean sheet. Storry pulled off a series of fine saves to re-assert her position in some people’s minds as the best in the world.

The final whistle went with no further goals during the second period. Great Britain will be happy with a hugely professional display which saw Georgie Twigg and Beth Storry excellent at the back, and Alex Danson, as ever a huge threat up front. Argentina will know they have Luciana Aymar to welcome back into their side, giving them the cutting edge and X-factor they have lacked in this tournament so far. The two sides meet again in tomorrow’s final, which will doubtless be as competitive as this game. The home crowd will hope for the same outcome, too.

About thetopofthed

Columnist for The Hockey Paper and the man behind The Top of the D. Writer, podcaster, goalkeeper and BBC Sport man. Used to work for Great Britain Hockey and have covered the sport at every major tournament.
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