Olympics hockey: GB women beat New Zealand to bronze

 

Great Britain's women won their first Olympic medal since 1992 - and only their second ever - with a 3-1 win over New Zealand in the bronze medal match.

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We vowed that we weren't going to go home empty-handed

Kate Walsh Great Britain captain

Second-half goals from Alex Danson, Crista Cullen and Sarah Thomas sank the Kiwis, and prompted scenes of celebration on the pitch at the end.

The British women have matched the bronze won by their counterparts in Barcelona 20 years ago.

Gold will be decided later on Friday when Argentina face the Netherlands.

There had been concern for British fans ahead of Friday's match about whether the players would recover from the blow of losing their semi-final to Argentina on Wednesday.

After winning their opening three group games in some style, GB had lost their last three matches and were up against a New Zealand side that had surprised everyone by almost reaching the final.

Britain dominated the opening stages but struggled to create clear-cut opportunities, and failed with two chances at their main threat from penalty corners.

Analysis

"I think that was the best 70 minutes that Great Britain put together in the tournament. Seeing the devastation that losing the semi-final caused, there were concerns, but once they came out with high energy levels and ball pace, I could really only see one winner. Credit to the girls, and I think coach Danny Kerry got his tactics spot on and nullified the strengths of New Zealand."

New Zealand grew in confidence as the match went on and when Katie Glynn hit the post in the first minute of the second half, nerves were jangling all around the Riverbank Arena.

It was Britain's star striker Danson who made the breakthrough when she dived to deflect home a penalty corner, bringing a deafening roar from the home crowd and sending a surge of adrenaline through the hosts.

With the confidence of a lead they began to pour forward as they had in their early group matches, and the pressure finally told on the New Zealand defence.

Cullen made the game safe with a trademark drag-flick from a penalty corner in the 59th minute, and Thomas replicated Danson's earlier effort with a deflection from another corner four minutes later.

Stacey Michelsen pulled one back for the Kiwis with two minutes remaining but the party was already under way in the stands, and it spilt onto the pitch when the buzzer sounded and the British bench streamed on to celebrate with their team-mates.

"We were heartbroken after our semi-final," said GB captain Kate Walsh.

"The team was devastated, people couldn't talk, they were absolutely gutted. Everything we dreamed of was that gold medal. We knew we couldn't get it, but we vowed that we weren't going to go home empty-handed.

"We knew that we had the game, we knew that we had the mental capacity. We just had to put it all together."

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