London Prepares, Hockey Test Event: Great Britain 3-0 China.

Two goals from Leicester’s Crista Cullen helped Great Britain to maintain their 100% record in this competition with a 3-0 win over China in front of a partisan home crowd at London’s Riverbank Arena.

Cullen’s first goal settled the home team’s nerves, coming early, in the 6th minute giving Yimeng Zhang in the China goal no chance from a penalty corner.

With the pressure seemingly off, Great Britain threatened again almost immediately: Alex Danson, found space at the top right of the D and hit a powerful shot which was well saved by Zhang. The home side whipped the crowd up into frenzy by forcing a number of penalty corners during the first half, but despite some varied routines they were unable to convert them. Danson went close from open play, but again was foiled by Zhang, who did well to force the striker wide, before clearing the shot with her glove.

China’s attacks were sporadic, owing much to the excellent pressing high up the pitch, which Great Britain had adopted. They did manage to force a penalty corner, which was dealt with by Beth Storry. Initially the umpire awarded a free hit to the home side, but another corner was awarded after a video referral. Storry again dealt with the shot, saving well low to her right allowing her team to go in at the break 1-0 ahead.

Storry was alert from the very start of the second half, saving well in the opening seconds before a penalty corner was awarded at the other end. Cullen stepped up again, but was denied by a fine save from the impressive Zhang.

It was all Great Britain at this stage, Zhang again keeping out a penalty corner, this time from Kate Walsh before Laura Bartlett went close to applying the finishing touch to a great run and cross from the ever-excellent Helen Richardson.

Having failed to convert their chances, Great Britain almost paid the price as a rare mistake from Emily Maguire threatened to let in China for a goal. Storry showed great awareness to block the first shot, and then great athleticism to see off the danger to preserve her clean sheet.

With just two minutes left on the clock, some slick interplay down the right freed Helen Richardson, using her considerable skills she managed to get a shot in, only for the ball to pop up in the air. Susie Gilbert reacted the quickest and prodded home to double the advantage.

With the crowd barely back in their seats, Great Britain forced a series of penalty corners in the dying seconds. On the third of these, Cullen hit a low shot, which came back off the goalkeeper, showing great technique she hit the bouncing ball in off the underside of the bar, to the delight of her teammates, and the whole of the crowd.

It was a hugely impressive showing by the home side, who created plenty of chances, whilst denying their opponents chances of their own. But for an impressive display by Zhang in the China goal, the win could have been more emphatic.

Great Britain’s next match is against Argentina on Saturday. With Helen Richardson at her imperious best, Sarah Thomas looking dangerous on the break and fine display from Susie Gilbert, they will have plenty of confidence as they aim to avenge their Champions Trophy defeat to Las Leonas earlier this year.

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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