St Albans Hannah Macleod and Team GB through to the gold medal match at Rio Olympics
- Credit: PA
Great Britain guaranteed themselves a medal at the Olympic Games in Rio with a 3-0 win over New Zealand in the hockey semi-finals.
Two goals from Alex Danson and one from Hitchin’s Helen Richardson-Walsh secured the first ever Olympic final appearance for the British girls.
There they will face reigning champions the Netherlands in the final, set for tomorrow (Friday) at 9pm, after they came through a tense penalty shoot-out with Germany.
The tournament has been an unrivalled success for the squad that includes St Albans Hockey Club’s Hannah Macleod.
They won all five of their pool matches, the only nation to do so, and the two knockout wins take their perfect record to seven.
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But while there was joyous celebrations at the final whistle, with Ellie Watton, another St Albans player, out in Rio as a reserve joining in, the mantra from players and staff was very much the same; one more match.
Danson, who has scored five goals in thi stournament, said: “To come away from a semi-final and to be going into a final is unbelievable. But you can’t forget what’s got us here.
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“It’s been one game at a time, building momentum, recovering and playing again. We’ve got one more to play and we won’t change anything about how we prepare.
“There are a number of us who have learnt from some heavy defeats over the last few years. You have them at the back of your mind but actually this tournament has been very much about us and the opposition and taking it one game at a time.”
It was a point echoed by a happy Danny Kerry, Great Britain’s coach.
He said: “That makes us the most successful GB women’s team ever at an Olympics. But there’s still one more game to go and they’re going to keep their feet on the ground.”
“They executed brilliantly today. They absolutely played how they’d been set out to do it and it really paid dividends. I was really proud of them playing under pressure in the second half. They kept playing forward trying to take opportunities and I’m really proud of that.”
“Holland in the final will be a tight, cagey affair. They have some talented players and they will probably start as red-hot favourites but we like it that way.”
GB’s victory over the Blacksticks was a repeat of the 2012 bronze medal match in London and was a tense affair for the majority of the 60 minutes.
New Zealand arguably had the better of the chances in the first quarter despite most of the possession being with GB.
But any nerves were settled slightly after 22 minutes when Danson stabbed home after Crista Cullen’s strike from a penalty corner had been saved.
Injuries looked like they could be a problem for GB when within minutes of each other in the third quarter both Cullen and Georgie Twigg departed for treatment to facial injuries.
But three minutes into the final quarter Danny Kerry’s team grabbed the all-important second goal.
Some lovely link up play between Danson and Richardson-Walsh freed the latter who was brought down by a combination of Sally Rutherford and Kayla Whitelock.
But the British number eight dusted herself down and coolly slotted the ball in for her fourth goal of the tournament.
And a penalty stroke brought the third goal.
This time it was Lily Owsley who was upended and Danson, with Richardson-Walsh having a hamstring injury tended to, who sslammed the ball home.