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Hockey: China stun Black Sticks to lead Pool B at World League Final

China (in red) beat New Zealand 2-0 on the opening day of the World League Final in San Miguel de Tucuman in northern Argentina. Photo: FIH / Frank-Uijlenbroek.

China (in red) beat New Zealand 2-0 on the opening day of the World League Final in San Miguel de Tucuman in northern Argentina. Photo: FIH / Frank-Uijlenbroek.

December 1, 2013: China were the surprise leaders of Pool B at the end of the first day of action at the FIH Hockey World League Final in Argentina courtesy of a 2-0 win over New Zealand.

 

That match was followed by a thrilling contest between host nation Argentina and Australia’s Hockeyroos, with a sell-out crowd of 6,000 in San Miguel de Tucuman enjoying a 1-1 draw that was played at an electrifying pace.

 

Korea made a poor start to Pool A, taking a two-goal lead before losing 6-2 to England, while the Netherlands claimed a stunning 6-0 win over European champions Germany. Park Ki-ju and Park Seung scored Korea’s goals in the 17th and 20th minutes.

 

China got their title challenge off to the perfect start as goals from Cui Quixia and Huang Ting gave the 2008 Olympic runners-up a hard-earned victory, with goal-keeper Li Dongxiao one of the stars of the show following a string of magnificent saves.

 

The Black Sticks started this match as marginal favourites due to their superior placing in the FIH World Rankings, but it was China who drew first blood when Cui, 23, fired home from close range following a penalty-corner save from New Zealand shot-stopper Sally Rutherford.

 

New Zealand had chances to level the scores ahead of the half time break, but they could find no way past 26-year-old Li, who was in sparkling form.

 

Despite the Black Sticks’ dominance, China had a clear chance to double their advantage when a video referral led to a penalty stroke. However, Wang Mengyu’s weak effort was read perfectly by Rutherford, who palmed the ball away to safety.

 

New Zealand worked hard to create more opportunities in the second half, but China’s defence held firm and limited the Kiwis to half chances before the decisive moment arrived with 10 minutes left as Huang, 25, slammed home a speculative pass into the area.

 

Argentina and Australia then played out a pulsating, high-paced draw in the final match of the day. Ahead of the match, Las Leonas attacker Carla Rebecchi was given a special presentation from FIH President Leandro Negre in recognition of her 200th international appearance.

 

The hosts almost completely dominated the opening stages, as Luciana Aymar and teammates delighted the fans with their trademark brand of attaching hockey. The Hockeyroos were impressive in defence, but Las Leonas took the lead thanks to a close-range deflection from Delfina Merino.

 

Australia weathered the storm and grew in stature as the match progressed, and deservedly drew level in the 31st minute when a fierce strike into the circle clipped the stick of Ana Rodriguez Perez and flew into the goal.

 

Both teams had good chances to score in the second half, with the legendary Aymar going the closest when she forced a miraculous diving save from Australia’s Rachael Lynch. However, the scores remained locked at 1-1, giving both sides a deserved share of the spoils.

 

Source: FIH

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