Photo Credit : Vantage Black Sticks

The Black Sticks women have qualified for the Olympic quarterfinals by the skin of their teeth after going down 3-2 to China in their final pool match today.

In the must-win game for China, they showed greater desire to claim the victory despite their poor form earlier in the tournament.

With the loss, the Black Sticks finished fourth in Pool B – equal on six points with China but with a much better goal difference – and will likely face world no.1 the Netherlands in their quarterfinal on Monday.

New Zealand were today at full strength with captain Stacey Michelsen back after missing the Australian clash as she manages her return from a hamstring injury. Defender Tarryn Davey also returned after a minor groin strain.

The Kiwis had earlier collected two wins in Tokyo – a 3-0 upset against world no. 2 Argentina and 2-1 victory over Japan before going down 2-1 to both Spain and Australia.

Today China had the better of a goal-less first quarter with Black Sticks goalkeeper Grace O’Hanlon brilliantly stopping their first shot after a fast break from Yang Chen.

Twice the Chinese had the ball in the goal in the opening quarter, the first a disallowed penalty corner as the ball did not go outside the circle before the shot at goal, and the second was from the back of the stick. The change to the penalty corner goal was an excellent use of the video referral by the Kiwis.

The Black Sticks were the first to get on the board in the 20th minute as Ella Gunson made sure Kelsey Smith’s deflection from a penalty corner went over the line. Four minutes later China equalised with Meng Liu slotting in a penalty corner lay-off from the left post.

China were the first to break the deadlock in the second half with Chen firing in a penalty corner rebound, before Rose Keddell evened things up for the Black Sticks right at the end of the third quarter. Some nice build-up work from Hope Ralph and then Kelsey Smith left Keddell open near the top of the circle to rocket in the equaliser.

Meiyu Liang added the winner in the final quarter as she finishing off a lovely passing move, and it could have been a bigger winning margin with China dominating the final minutes.

China 3 (Meng Liu 24 min, Yang Chen 37 min, Meiyu Liang 54 min) New Zealand 2 (Ella Gunson 20 min, Rose Keddell 45 min) Halftime: 1-1.

New Zealand Women: Ella Gunson, Stacey Michelsen – captain (Northland); Stephanie Dickins (North Harbour); Katie Doar, Grace O’Hanlon (GK), Elizabeth Thompson (Auckland); Tarryn Davey (Thames Valley), Samantha Charlton, Frances Davies, Rose Keddell (Tauranga); Hope Ralph (Taranaki); Olivia Shannon (Manawatu); Megan Hull (Wairarapa); Kelsey Smith (Nelson); Olivia Merry (Canterbury), Tessa Jopp (Otago)

The Black Sticks’ quarterfinals opponent will be determined after the remaining Pool A matches are completed tonight including the top-of-the-table clash between the Netherlands and Germany.

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