London 2012 Olympics: Danson inspires British women to hockey victory
Striker Alex Danson was the star of the show with two goals as Great Britain’s Olympic medal bid began with a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Japan.
However, there was much more to the performance than the Reading forward’s double as the team’s movement, incisive passing and direct running dispelled any fears of stage fright in front of a near-16,000 capacity crowd.
An early goal undoubtedly helped, though, and after Danson struck in the seventh minute goals rained in. Efforts by Sarah Thomas, Sally Walton and Danson’s second followed, while a clean sheet meant GB have still to concede a tournament goal on the blue pitch, this being their fifth outing on the ‘Smurf Turf’.
The only downside were late injuries to captain Kate Walsh (face) and Helen Richardson (knee)
The last time Danson played a competitive match here she dislocated her shoulder in the final of the test event, which GB won, and briefly raised concerns over her fitness for the Olympics.
On this occasion, Japan’s defence was pulled out of place as GB worked hard to find space high up the pitch, and did so with one-way traffic in the first half as the hosts put in exactly the display the noisy crowd at the Riverbank Arena demanded.
Georgie Twigg set the early tone, firing over after a driving 30-yard run, before Danson got the party started. Richardson’s cross was miscontrolled by Miyuki Nakagawa and the Reading forward pounced, unleashing a trademark reverse-stick shot from close range.
After a brief scare when Masako Sato slapped a shot wide of goalkeeper Beth Storry’s left-hand post, normal service was resumed when Thomas, the only Wales international in the squad, deflected in Hannah Macleod’s cross for only her seventh goal in 128 internationals.
Moments later, Walton scooped in the third, her eighth in 112 caps, from close range after Walsh’s penalty corner was saved and partially cleared only to be returned by Twigg.
The lively Danson capped a sparkling opening 35 minutes when Richardson’s clever under-the-shoulder pass presented the opening eight yards out and she needed no second invitation to beat Sakiyo Asano.
A hat-trick was only inches away when another reverse-stick effort from a wide angle flew past the far post.
Late in the game Walsh was caught in the face with a full swing by Akane Shibata but, bloodied and unbowed, the captain declined the stretcher and walked off clutching her jaw.
Richarson was then carried off after a ball crashed into her left knee.
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