Hockey World League: England 0 New Zealand 1
PUBLISHED: 08:52 24 November 2017 | UPDATED: 08:52 24 November 2017
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England's women saw their Hockey World League Final gold-medal hopes shattered by a late New Zealand winner in their semi-final on Friday.
The scoreline remained blank until five minutes from time, when Olivia Merry claimed the only goal of the game.
And England will now hope to pick themselves up for Sunday’s bronze-medal match against the Netherlands or Korea.
New Zealand applied early pressure in front of a full house in Auckland, but Maddie Hinch made a smart save with her feet in the second minute.
The pace of play was frantic, with the home crowd in good voice, but Lily Owsley caused problems with her pace as England began to settle into the contest in a scoreless first quarter.
Owsley had the ball in the back of the net within a minute of the restart, but it was ruled out on review for use of the back of thhe stick.
Grace Balsdon then produced a brilliant tackle to thwart a New Zealand attack and Hinch dived to her right to keep out a short corner on 22 minutes.
The home side were almost punished for losing the ball in defence as Sarah Haycroft sent her strike flying just wide of the post.
And despite a very exciting first half the scoreline remained blank at the midway mark.
England went closest to breaking the deadlock in the third quarter when Sophie Bray, the two-goal hero of their quarter-final win over the USA, volleyed a bobbling ball onto the crossbar.
And they also forced back-to-back short corners, but Giselle Ansley’s strikes were blocked before Laura Unsworth cleared a New Zealand corner off the line and a second attempt flew wide of the target as it remained 0-0 going into the final quarter.
Hinch had to produce a stunning save to deny New Zealand midway through the fourth period, but England fell behind with only five minutes remaining when Merry fired high into the net from a short corner.
England removed Hinch for a kicking-back for the last three minutes, but they could not force an equaliser as the hosts held on to their slender lead and will go in to Sunday’s bronze medal play-off at 5am British time.
England: Hinch, Unsworth, Martin, Paige, Danson, Ansley, Bray, Pearne-Webb, McCallin, Owsley, Balsdon. Subs: Haycroft, Toman, Petty, Sanders, Rayer, Defroand, Tennant.