Australia held their nerve to win the Commonwealth Games title with a dramatic shootout victory over England in Glasgow. Lily Owsley’s 48th minute strike had looked like it would be enough to give Danny Kerry’s team the win but Jodie Kenny’s leveller with seconds left on the clock took the game to a shootout which the Hockeyroos won 3-1.
In an absorbing contest of few chances England threatened first. Alex Danson broke forwards and slid a lovely pass into Lucy Wood but the Holcombe striker’s shot was kicked clear by Rachael Lynch.
With 15 minutes on the clock Australia squandered a gilt-edged opportunity to take the lead. A long pass into the D found its way through and Maddie Hinch’s clearance fell to Kellie White who lifted her shot wide of the post with the goal at her mercy. Moments later Ashleigh Nelson showed some lovely skills to get away from two defenders but Hinch was out well to make an excellent block. Adam Commens’ team forced a penalty corner two minutes before the break but Kenny’s drag flick went wide of the post ensuring the sides went in locked at 0-0 at the break.
The second half was a real battle as both sides fought tooth and nail to gain control of the game. With 48 minutes gone, England seized the initiative. Susie Gilbert did well down the right and got a cross in. Although Australia seemed to deal with the danger, Danson won the ball back and it fell to Owsley who calmly lifted it over the onrushing goalkeeper and into the net, an excellent finish.
Australia cranked up the pressure as they searched for an equaliser but England defended superbly. Hollie Webb and Giselle Ansley seemed to be everywhere, getting tackles and interceptions in as the Hockeyroos were frustrated by their rivals. It looked like England would hang on but in the last minute Australia forced a penalty corner. Owsley was sent to half way for breaking early meaning England faced the corner with three instead of four defenders. Anna Flanagan flicked for goal but her effort was saved by Hinch. The rebound fell to Kenny who found the far corner through a crowd of players to snatch a dramatic equaliser, sending the game to a shootout.
Casey Eastham stepped up first in the shootout and scored with Georgie Twigg levelling it up with England’s first. Hinch made a splendid save to keep out White but then Danson slipped as she rounded Lynch and could only shoot wide. Georgie Parker calmly fired home a reverse stick shot and then Lynch produced a moment of magic to deny Susie Gilbert. Jodie Kenny was brought down by Hinch, resulting in a penalty stroke which she took herself, firing wide to the disbelief of the whole crowd. With the deficit 2-1, Nicola White had to score to keep the pressure on but she lost control of the ball and it went out of play. Madonna Blyth, the Hockeyroos captain had the chance to win the gold medal, which she took, sparking wild celebrations as she was mobbed by her teammates.
For England it was a cruel end to the tournament. They were just seconds away from overcoming the world number two side only to have the medal snatched from their grasp. On the other side of the coin, Australia showed their spirit and determination, taking full advantage of the late shift in momentum to take home yet another title. It might not have been the prettiest of games, but Adam Commens and his team will care little about that.
‘Gutting’ is the only word that fits.