Olympics hockey: GB women ease past Belgium for third win

Great Britain's women overcame some stern early resistance from Belgium to record an impressive 3-0 win in the Olympic hockey tournament.

As a frustrating first half was coming to an end, Ashleigh Ball gave the home side the breakthrough from close range.

Laura Bartlett then scored with a clever reverse-stick finish early in the second and Crista Cullen made it three with a penalty corner late on.

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The second half we showed our character and belief and gave a better performance

Ashleigh Ball

A point against China on Saturday will guarantee a semi-final place.

GB captain Kate Walsh was sidelined for the second match in a row as she continues to recover from a broken jaw suffered in the opening game against Japan.

Coach Danny Kerry later told the BBC: "I have no doubt Kate will play again in this tournament, it is simply a question of when. I don't yet know if she will play against China or the Netherlands."

Walsh was watching from the bench as her team-mates struggled to make much headway in the first half, and it came as a huge relief to players and fans alike when Ball swept home from a Chloe Rogers cross two minutes before the interval.

Britain noticeably upped the pace of their passing game in the second half and quickly got their reward when Hannah Macleod set up Bartlett to slide a reverse stick effort under the Belgian keeper.

The crowd at the Riverbank Arena was now in full voice but the Belgians would not back off, searching in vain for their first goal of the tournament until Cullen wrapped things up with a clinical penalty corner strike.

Asked about scoring in the Olympics, Ball said: "It was phenomenal. The noise in the stadium was unbelievable.

"I think the corner scorers are always going to have slightly more chances than everyone else but the strengths of this team are that we believe in each other, and we have all shown why we are here and everyone is capable of scoring goals and winning goals.

"I think with our first-half performance we were lucky to go in 1-0 up but the second half we showed our character and belief and gave a better performance."

Earlier in Pool A, South Korea beat Japan 1-0 and China lost 1-0 to reigning Olympic champions the Netherlands, who will be Britain's final opponents in Pool A.

In Pool B, Australia beat the United States 1-0, Germany saw off South Africa 2-0 and Argentina defeated New Zealand 2-1.