NEW DELHI: Australia defeated New Zealand on penalty strokes in an absorbing final Wednesday to retain its Commonwealth Games women’s field hockey title.
New Zealand snatched a last-minute 2-2 equalizer in regulation time when Clarissa Eshuis’ hard push off a penalty corner hit the board.
There was no score in extra time as both teams missed several scoring opportunities, and Australia clinched the gold medal 4-2 on penalty strokes.
New Zealand star striker Katie Glynn and Krystal Forgesson missed New Zealand’s penalty strokes while Australia captain Madonna Blyth’s shot from the spot also went wide.
A calm Jessica Nicole finished it off with the last penalty stroke.
”It’s (penalty strokes) something I am not used to, but I think rest of our players and goalkeeper remained calm,” Blyth said. ”She (Nicole) held her nerve and when she scored I immediately said ‘Thank God.”
Frank Murray was pleased with his team’s performance in his last assignment as coach of the Australia’s women team.
”We knew we had to work hard for the win, but we (also) knew it was possible,” Murray said. ”Hopefully I will get some sleep now.”
During the regulation time, Nicole shot the defending champions ahead off her team’s first short corner in the ninth minute.
New Zealand equalized in 48th when Eshuis brilliantly setup Samantha Harrison to deflect the ball in between goalkeeper Rachael Lynch’s pads off a reverse stick.
New Zealand wasted a couple of good chances but Glynn missed a deflection from close range and Stacey Michelsen’s powerful reverse flick flew over the goal.
Australia made a number of counter-attacks and finally Ashleigh Nelson pounced on a rebound off a 59th-minute short corner. Eshuis’ late equalizer took the game into extra-time.
”It was pretty even, but it was disappointing we gave up the lead in the last minute,” Blyth said.
New Zealand defender Emily Naylor said she was impressed with her team’s counter-attacks in the second half _ especially after going 2-1 down.
”We were a bit flat in the first half, but we fought brilliantly in the second half,” she said. ”It’s pretty tough for five to take penalty strokes and especially the goalkeeper.”
In the bronze medal match, midfielder Georgie Twigg’s first-half goal guided England to a 1-0 win over South Africa.
Twigg deflected Crista Cullen’s diagonal cross from the right against the run of play in the 13th minute in one of England’s rare field attempts in the first half.
”I am absolutely thrilled,” Twigg said.
South Africa wasted nine short corners, including four in succession in the first seven minutes _ all missed by ace striker Pietie Coetzee.
Defender Kim Hubach was also off target with the next three short corners in the first half as South Africa time and again tested the England defense.
Coetzee missed two further short corners in the last 10 minutes and came close to equalizing in the 65th minute, but her reverse flick from the top of the circle didn’t have enough power to beat goalkeeper Beth Storry.
”I am pretty disappointed with the result,” South Africa defender Lenise Marais said. ”In the last half of the match we gave everything, but couldn’t score.”
The victory continued England’s run of never missing the podium since the sport was introduced in the Commonwealth Games in 1998. England was a bronze medalist in Melbourne in 2006, and won silvers in Kuala Lumpur (1998) and Manchester (2002).