After a slow start, Australia secured a two-goal win over Spain in the opening match of Tokyo 2020 on Sunday Morning at Oi Hockey Stadium. For all your Tokyo 2020 coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.
The two teams battled in the sweltering heat, in an arm wrestle of a match, which featured a scoring drought in three quarters, with all four goals scored in a flurry in the third.
Australia was searching for redemption after losing the bronze medal match to Spain in the 2018 World Cup 3-1. Ironically, that scoreline was flipped and went in Australia’s favour today.
It was an energetic start for both sides, as they searched for sustained possession and attacked vigorously, but neither side could keep it in their attacking half, and hence couldn’t score.
This trend continued until the main break, with shots several opportunities sought by the Aussies, which failed to reach the back of the net throughout the two quarters. Many of these opportunities presented themselves as penalty corners, with Australia awarded six in the first half.
With shots coming thick and fast, Maria Ruiz stood strong and had a magnificent save as both Stephanie Kershaw, Madison Fitzpatrick, Kaitlin Nobbs, and Karri Somerville attempted to send the ball home on different occasions.
The Australians couldn’t capitalise on Spain being a player down in the 22nd minute as Georgina Oliva received a green card. The Spanish defence stood up to shut down the Hockeyroos’ persistent attacks.
It wasn’t penalties alone that created these opportunities early, as captain Brooke Peris aimed for the goal, but just missed, leading to another failed chance.
Kershaw also contributed a quick run at goal to break the game open, stealing the ball from the Spanish attack, however, the attempt was thwarted by the Spanish defence.
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Spain earned a penalty quarter in the dying seconds of the first half, which Australia’s Kate Jenner did well to defend, stopping the ball on the line, and clearing the ball out with urgency.
It was Rosie Malone who broke the scoring floodgates, getting the ball close to the goal, and sent it home within 36 seconds of the third quarter. Only a minute later, Emily Chalker celebrated her 250th game in style with another goal, giving Australia a two-goal advantage.
Spain answered not long after, with Beatriz Perez taking a shot from close range, however, it was nearly denied after a video referral. The evidence was inconclusive, and the goal was awarded.
Australia’s third came from a penalty corner awarded due to a high stick infringement. It was chaotic in the circle, as Edwina Bone sent it in, but Grace Stewart managed to evade the traffic and get the goal in the end.
Once again, Spain was penalised with a card, only this time it was yellow, meaning it was without Carlota Petchame for five minutes. But Spain didn’t give up, withstanding an Australian penalty corner and continuing to fight back despite being down on the scoreboard.
During this time, Oliva fired a ball towards goal, but there was no need for goalkeeper Rachael Lynch to save the shot as it missed.
Spain continued to bring the heat with two shots taken by Berta Bonastre and Julia Pons early in the fourth.
Both team’s defences were well structured and organised as Spain worked to restrict Australia’s chances to extend the margin, and Australia held Spain to their one goal.
Final Result: Australia 3 – Spain 1
Australia goals: Malone 31’, Chalker 32’, Stewart 37’
Spain goals: Perez 33’
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