(Changzhou, China : Match Report by FIH) — China avenged February’s 2-0 away defeat at the hands of New Zealand in Christchurch by recording a superb 5-3 victory over the Black Sticks in front of another excitable crowd at the Wujin Hockey Stadium in Changzhou.
Goals from Player of the Match Cui Qiuxia, Zhang Xiaoxue and Gu Bing Feng established a commanding 3-0 lead for China before a breathless final nine minutes in which New Zealand come agonisingly close to producing a remarkable comeback, twice getting to within one goal of the home side before China eventually prevailed.
The result – which came a day after China lost 1-0 to Argentina in the same stadium – leaves New Zealand sitting in fifth position in the FIH Pro League standings, while China remain in seventh position.
A delicately balanced opening quarter saw both sides create chances, but it was home favourites China (FIH World Ranking: 10) who took a 1-0 advantage into the quarter time break thanks to Cui Qiuxia’s diving penalty corner deflection in the ninth minute.
That lead was doubled four minutes into the second period when Zhang Xiaoxue drilled a low, powerful shot into the bottom left corner, finishing off an impressive passing move after New Zealand (WR:6) defender Ella Gunson gave away possession deep in her own territory.
China had two gilt-edged chances to put the game beyond the reach of the Black Sticks, with Zhong Jiaqi and Zhang both hitting the side of the New Zealand goal before Ye Jiao produced a stunning save to keep China’s two goal lead intact, diving athletically to her right to force Shiloh Gloyn’s goal-bound deflection around the post.
The crowd packed into the Wujin Hockey Stadium were treated to a thrilling and remarkable final quarter that featured five goals. China extended their lead to 3-0 in the 51st minute thanks to a glorious, high penalty corner drag-flick from Gu Bing Feng, before New Zealand scored twice in quick succession through penalty corner efforts from Stacey Michelsen and Shiloh Gloyn to bring the Black Sticks back into the contest at 3-2.
The two sides traded blows again to take the score to 4-3, with China’s Guo Qiu and Rose Keddell of New Zealand hitting the target.
The result was sealed when China won a penalty corner in the dying seconds of the match, with Gu claiming her second goal of the contest by drag-flicking into a New Zealand net that was without a goalkeeper.
Shot-stopper Sally Rutherford had been replaced with an outfield player in a last ditch effort to salvage something from the fixture.