England were left reeling after slipping to their second defeat in two games of the Rabobank Hockey World Cup. Jason Lee’s side were unable to get over China’s great defensive wall and paid the price as Baodong You’s side scored from their only three shots on target.
The first half went exactly as you would expect. China set up deep and got bodies behind the ball trying to ensure they were difficult to break down, whilst offering little or no threat on the attack. England set about trying to break their opponents down and in the third minute forced their first penalty corner. Kate Richardson-Walsh beat the goalkeeper but not the player on the line who got a stick on it to clear. England went close in the tenth minute. A long pass was played into the D and deflected goal wards but with Susie Gilbert closing in to try to force the ball home Dongxiao Li scrambled back to get a glove on it and avert the danger.
Lily Owsley looked bright and dangerous on the ball as she tried to find a way to unlock the defence. The No26 broke around the back and along the baseline, cutting the ball back for Hannah Macleod. Li made the save but the ball broke back to Owsley who saw her effort hit both posts before rolling away to safety.
China forced a string of penalty corners but Mengyu Wang was unable to beat the England defence as her efforts were charged down by Ashleigh Ball. At the other end Susannah Townsend fizzed a great cross in from the left but Alex Danson, making her 150th appearance for England, could not find a way past Li with her deflection. Richardson-Walsh was also kept out by Li from another penalty corner and England were left frustrated, going into he break level at 0-0.
Jason Lee’s team picked up where they left off after the break. A great run from Sophie Bray forced a penalty corner but Zoe Shipperley’s strike was well saved by Li in the China goal. The Chinese broke from the back and swept upfield Meiyu Liang crossed for Xiayun Xi who, with the goal at her mercy didn’t make proper contact and scuffed the shot wide.
On 41 minutes Lily Owsley showed some lovely 3D skills, picking the ball up from Townsend and bursting into the D. With a glimmer of space she fired her shot in but got underneath it and it went over the bar. A minute later, China took the lead. Yang Peng swivelled in the D and found the far top conrer with a splendid strike.
England forced another penalty corner, working it wide to Sally Walton whose shot was saved by Li who was having a fine game. With 15 minutes remaining, China doubled their advantage. Meiyu Liang found a gap between Maddie Hinch’s pads and Laura Unsworth on the line and squeezed her shot in.
With six minutes remaining England gambled, removing their goalkeeper to try and add an outfield player to gain an advantage. The gamble backfired and China were able to make it 3-0 as Peng slotted a reverse stick shot into the empty net to wrap the game up.
England Coach, Jason Lee said afterwards:
“The stats from the games suggest we should have won both quite easily. I’m surprised we’re in this position but you sometimes need a bit of luck to get that ball over the line. If we’d have scored early it would’ve been a different story. The same happened against America. We went behind from two corners but created so many chances. If we keep creating them we have a chance but I am surprised things haven’t gone well on that front.” he added “There’s nothing more motivating than staring over a precipice. When you’re on the edge of a cliff there’s only one way to go. It’s pretty bad now. I’ve been in the game a long time but this is as bad as I’ve known things to be. If we don’t start to win games and manage to progress it will be even worse. That’s quite a motivating factor.”
England now have rest days before resuming their campaign against South Africa on Friday.
Photo courtesy of Ady Kerry.