The scoreboard may have read 1-0, but there were other scores settled at Oi Hockey Stadium when the Hockeyroos claimed their fourth straight victory of the Tokyo Olympics, defeating arch rivals New Zealand.
One of those pieces of unfinished business dates back to the previous Olympic Games in Rio where the Black Sticks knocked Australia out of the tournament with a stunning, and very painful, 4-2 victory.
But according to Hockeyroos Head Coach Katrina Powell, her team helped to ease the pain of that memory with a win that puts them at the top of Pool B, in what is their best run in the round matches in Olympic history.
“It’s always a tough game against New Zealand and one that we get up for,” Powell said.
“Hopefully, the win atones a little bit for those players from 2016 that are sitting watching at home…maybe they are feeling a little bit of comeuppance and are satisfied with that.
“We are doing it for Australian hockey, but sometimes, there are a few specific people out there that we are trying to get the job done for.”
The Hockeyroos went into the match confident coming off three straight wins against Spain (3-1), China (6-0) and Japan (1-0).
They penetrated the Kiwi circle three times in the opening quarter but were unable to convert despite some valiant playmaking by 19-year-old debutant Amy Lawton to leave the score 0-0 at the break.
Shining in the second quarter was West Australian defender Karri Somerville who tamed the experienced Black Sticks attack, including the nation’s most prolific scorer, Olivia Merry, to keep their opponents scoreless at half time.
After what was a frustrating opening half with both teams failing to capitalise, the hard-working Lawton combined with Savannah Fitzpatrick to set up Emily Chalker to take the lead in the 34th minute.
The goal was Chalker’s fourth for the tournament and a belated birthday gift after turning 29 on Wednesday.
New Zealand was stoic in defence foiling the Hockeyroos who weren’t able to convert despite 11
circle penetrations and five attempts on goal by the end of the third quarter.
Trailing with just over three minutes left in the match, the Black Sticks withdrew goalkeeper Grace O’Hanlon to give themselves more chance in attack, but despite the extra field player and an open goal neither team were able to score.
Despite the win, Powell knows the Hockeyroos’ lack of field goal conversions and lacklustre penalty corner batteries will need to lift heading into the Knockout Stage where they could face the highly-fancied Dutch, Brits or Germans.
“Australians have been complaining for a long time in hockey circles that we don’t convert enough of the chances that we create,” Powell said.
“Certainly, that is continuing with our group in the last couple of games, so getting those outcomes in the circle is what we are focused on.
“There’s not an easy solution or it would have already been solved by someone well before my time, but we just need to keep peppering it, keep going, persist and eventually they will start to come.
“New Zealand are a good team; they have a really strong defence and a fast attack that can threaten and hurt you. Let’s not take anything away from New Zealand. They always bring it to Australia no matter what the situation and they certainly did that tonight.”
The Hockeyroos’ final Pool match is against second placed Argentina on Saturday.
Written by Catriona Dixon
New Zealand 0
Hockeyroos 1 (Chalker 34’)
@ Oi Hockey Stadium, Tokyo
Hockeyroos: 2.Rosie Malone, 3.Brooke Peris (c), 4.Amy Lawton, 10.Maddy Fitzpatrick, 13.Edwina Bone, 14.Steph Kershaw, 15.Kaitlin Nobbs, 18.Jane Claxton, 20.Karri Somerville, 21.Renee Taylor, 22.Kate Jenner, 24.Mariah Williams, 26.Emily Chalker, 27.Rachael Lynch (gk), 30.Grace Stewart, 32.Savannah Fitzpatrick