The Black Sticks women have suffered their first loss at the Tokyo Olympics going down 2-1 to a Spanish side who were desperate for a win.
The loss to the previously winless Spanish leaves the Black Sticks still fighting to confirm a quarterfinals spot when they meet top-of-the-table Australia late tomorrow night.
The Kiwis had earlier collected two wins in Tokyo with a 2-1 victory over Japan and a 3-0 upset against world no. 2 Argentina but were upstaged today by a Spanish team that connected better and made a lot less errors than New Zealand did.
Black Sticks captain Stacey Michelsen said it felt like they lacked a bit of energy today.
“We love to play fast-paced hockey and we just held the ball a bit too long at the back and didn’t play forward often enough. If we’d done that we would have been able to get around Spain with our speed.”
Michelsen was also disappointed they hadn’t picked up crucial points against Spain to secure a quarterfinals spot and avoid the likes of world no.1 the Netherlands in the play-offs.
“Coming off two wins it was disappointing not to get the three points today which would have set us up nicely. We just weren’t clinical enough in the attacking or defensive circles.”
Today the Black Sticks rested Tarryn Davey due to a slight groin niggle, with Taranaki striker Holly Pearson coming into the match day squad.
The Spanish opened the scoring in the Pool B match with a very questionable goal from Belen Iglesias Marcos that appeared to hit a Spanish foot in the circle in the lead up. Even a referral to the video umpire wasn’t able to right the wrong, and Spain were 1-0 up after six minutes.
Spain were dominant in the second quarter and added to their lead midway through the spell with a penalty corner drag flick that unfortunately went in off a defender giving keeper Grace O’Hanlon no chance of making a save.
The teams went into the break with Spain 2-0 ahead, but it only took five minutes of the third quarter for the Black Sticks to get on the board in the match. Elizabeth Thompson made a nice entry into the circle, delivered it to Kelsey Smith and her cross was then tapped in by a defender.
Despite a one-on-one opportunity for Julia King early in the fourth quarter that was thwarted by the Spanish goalkeeper, the Spanish held on their slim 2-1 lead until the final whistle.
Spain 2 (Belen Iglesias Marcos 6 min, Lola Riera Zuzuarregui 22 min) New Zealand 1 (Kelsey Smith 35 min). Halftime: 2-0 Spain
New Zealand Women: Ella Gunson, Stacey Michelsen – captain (Northland); Stephanie Dickins (North Harbour); Katie Doar, Julia King, Grace O’Hanlon (GK), Elizabeth Thompson (Auckland); Samantha Charlton, Frances Davies, Rose Keddell (Tauranga); Holly Pearson, Hope Ralph (Taranaki); Olivia Shannon (Manawatu); Megan Hull (Wairarapa); Kelsey Smith (Nelson); Olivia Merry (Canterbury).
Next up the Black Sticks play trans-Tasman rivals Australia in the early hours of Friday morning (12.15am NZ time) followed by their final pool game against China on Saturday.
Michelsen, who was only in her second game back today after a month out with a hamstring injury, said it was a quick turnaround before facing the Pool B leaders Australia tomorrow.
“Australia are playing some really nice hockey. You can tell they’re connected as a team and they’re moving the ball really well.
“We’ll have to come out tomorrow with a huge amount of respect for the way they’re playing. Fortunately we do know them very well.”
For the Olympic hockey schedule and results, click here.