Hawkes Bay Cup, New Zealand
Ireland 0 China 4 (Wang Mengyu, Song Qingling, Liang Meiyu, Li Jiaqi)
China’s four-goal first half blitz saw them sweep past Ireland in their opening game of the Hawkes Bay Cup in New Zealand.
The opening 10 minutes didn’t offer many indications of the eventual score-line as both teams were patient and controlled with few chances falling to either side. The first opportunity of the game came at the hands of a Chinese reverse strike that was well saved by McFerran, in fine form throughout, that led to a penalty corner.
Wang Mengyu scored on the first time of asking to the top corner and, two minutes later, Song Qingling doubled the lead. The ball was turned over at left back before a couple of quick passes left the defence scrambling and the striker fired into an open goal.
Zoe Wilson was the initiator for the best Irish chance of the quarter as she fired a pin-point aerial to the waiting Chloe Watkins. The pass found Nikki Evans in the circle but the eventual strike didn’t connect.
Two minutes into the second quarter and China had earned their second penalty corner; they would finish the match with a total of eight penalty corners. Sargent stopped the ball on the line with her foot and a penalty stroke was duly awarded and dispatched into the top corner by Liang Meiyu to make it 3-0.
The pace of the Chinese passing unlocked the Irish too many times and another break into the circle led to Li Jiaqi scoring China’s fourth, and final, goal just before half time.
The Green Army looked to have gotten a better grip in the second half. Gillian Pinder darted down the right wing on a couple of occasions and Nicci Daly was a spark of creativity in the midfield.
However, it was the final pass that seemed to be missing for the girls in green as the experienced Chinese defence always looked ready to pounce and intercept.
Anna O’Flanagan had two well-worked chances in the second half, one of which was saved off the line, and Sinead Loughran, winning her first cap having arrived in New Zealand yesterday, injected more urgency into the game.
Despite the improved second half performance by Ireland, the game had been won in the opening 30 minutes and Shaw’s team must now turn their focus to tomorrow’s match against India (5am GMT).
In the other match in the group, New Zealand beat India 1-0.
Ireland: A McFerran (GK), Y O’Byrne, C Watkins, N Daly, M Frazer (Captain), C Sargent, Z Wilson, A O’Flanagan, D Duke, N Evans, P Smithwick (GK), H Matthews, L Tice, G Pinder, S Loughran, N Carroll, E Beatty, K Mullan
** To watch the full match, here’s the video: