FIH Pro League
England 1 China 3
A day after earning their first points of the 2021-22 FIH Pro League campaign, drawing 1-1 and winning the resulting shootout, China Women beat England 3-1 at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre to give the hosts much to think about as they continue their home programme over the next few weeks.
China had come close to losing on Saturday and secured their draw with a last gasp equaliser to set up the shootout, but on Sunday, after falling behind, China seemed to be much more confident with England left to wonder what went wrong.
England brought in Darcy Bourne, Izzy Petter, Olivia Hamilton and Shona McCallin, replacing Holly Hunt, Lizzie Neal, Martha Taylor and Alex Malzer as they rang the changes to make full use of their squad.
China also made four changes with Ying Zhang, Yungxia Fan and Yang Chen, replacing Yangyan Gu. Meng Yuan and Ling Chen, with Xingluan Li also replacing Huarui Ouyang as their reserve goalkeeper.
China made good use of their video referral to reverse the decision to award England a penalty corner in the second minute, but there was nothing they could do in the eleventh minute when Grace Balsdon, who had the decisive penalty stroke saved after Ellie Rayer was fouled during Saturday’s shootout, made amends by converting England’s bona-fide initial penalty corner with a low shot which eluded Ping Liu in the Chinese goal.
The turning point came in the 23rd minute when Liyu Zhu collected a long pass and was brought down by Sabbie Heesh on the left side of the circle. In contrast to China’s wise use of their video referral, England used theirs to challenge the penalty stroke decision and lost their right as a result. To add insult to injury and Liyu Zhu limped off the pitch following the collision, Bingfeng Gu, slotted the penalty stroke to Heesh’s left to score for the second day running.
With the teams locked at 1-1 at half time, Hannah Martin went close to restoring England’s lead from a penalty corner within a minute of the start of the third quarter, only to be denied by Ping Liu, before China led for the first time over the weekend after the ball was slipped to Xindan Xhang who smashed the ball into the roof of the net in the 32nd minute to leave England trailing 2-1.
A minute later a series of three saves by Heesh prevented China from extending their lead from their first penalty corner of the match, the ball eventually scrambled away to set up a counter attack which was defused quite easily by the Chinese defence.
Giselle Ansley was frustrated as both shots from England’s third penalty corner were blocked as they sought the equaliser in the 35th minute and five minutes later, it was China’s turn to threaten from the set piece, Jiaqi Zhong firing the ball past the right post from their third penalty corner after Fiona Crackles had blocked the second forcing a re-award.
With seven minutes remaining, China once again showed how to use a video referral effectively, denying England what would have been their fourth penalty corner. In the 57th minute, after Heesh made an initial save from China’s fourth penalty corner, England failed to clear the danger allowing China to regroup and for Yang Chen to slip the ball to Heesh’s right and against the backboard to kill off England’s hopes of a comeback, new Coach, Alyson Annan already seeming to have some influence having recently taken charge of the Chinese squad after several years of success with the Netherlands.
China managed to run down the clock with sufficient possession, England unable to capitalise when they had possession in the closing minutes.
England take on Spain next weekend in their second home FIH Pro League doubleheader.
Scorer: Grace Balsdon 11-PC
Starters: Darcy Bourne, Laura Unsworth, Ellie Rayer, Izzy Petter, Giselle Ansley, Hollie Pearne-Webb (Capt.), Fiona Crackles, Sophie Hamilton, Shona McCallin, Sabbie Heesh (GK), Grace Balsdon.
Subs: Hannah Martin (3 mins), Tess Howard (3), Flora Peel (3), Olivia Hamilton (6), Lily Owsley (6), Lily Walker (7).
Sub not used: Miriam Pritchard (GK).
Scorer: Bingfeng Gu 23-PS, Xindan Xhang 32-F, Yang Chen 57-PC
Starters: Bingfeng Gu, Jiaqi Li (Capt.), Quixia Cui, Ning Ma, Xindan Xhang, Hong Li, Xiaoxue Xhang, Yang Chen, Tiantian Luo, Ping Liu (GK), Jiaqi Zhong.
Subs: Meiyu Liang (3 mins), Liyu Zhu (3), Haoting Yang (3), Ying Zhang (5), Yunxia Fan (5), Yanhua Chen (6),
Sub not used: Xinhuan Li (GK).
Umpires: Xiaoying Liu (China) and Michelle Meister (Germany)