Japan 2 vs. 1 New Zealand
12.30pm push back
So, as we get into the second round of games, Japan, who were unlucky in their first game, take on New Zealand, who haven’t had much in terms of rest. This group appears to be very exciting, with all the teams looking able to beat one another. Olivia Merry starts this game, after her player of the match performance from two days ago.
The Kiwi’s are on the attack and Anita McLaren whizzes a shot left to right across the goal, but it goes wides. New Zealand get another couple of shots off in the seventh minute, but these amount to nothing. They are playing a very high line, but are transitioning back to defence well. In the 10th minute, though, Japan get through their lines, Yuri Nagai plays it towards Motomi Kawamura, who deflects the ball just wide of the left hand post. Japan are starting to find attacking spaces from their opponent’s high press now.
0 – 0 at the end of the first period, with the New Zealand captain Stacey Michelsen being the best player for her team so far.
Japan restart the game with a fair amount of ambition. A drive to the right baseline and a pull back, leads to a long corner. A driven pass into the circle then leads to a short corner. It is a great start to the 2nd period. Natsuha Matsumoto smacks the ball at goal, but her shot is blocked. Sally Rutherford saves the rebound and the kiwis patiently move the ball up field, retaining possession until they get a circle entry themselves. The New Zealand players are looking good on the ball, trying to probe for spaces.
Six minutes into this quarter we get a short corner, with a stick tackle on a Japanese attacker. The injection is sent to the first castle. Shihori Oikawa plays the ball to her left, looking for Hazuki Nagai, who deflects wide of the post. The Irish correspondent next to me says that the Japanese remind him of somebody trying to break in to a house. They are trying to pick the lock, but haven’t opened the door yet. It’s an apt metaphor, as they continue to prob their opponents defence.
The Kiwis work another circle entry for themselves, but much like their own defence, the Japanese manage to block the route to goal, winning back possession.
In the fourteenth minute, Yuri Nagai picks up a pass that’s played across the Belgium circle. She’s pressed by two Kiwi players, but still manages to get a shot off, which, although not set towards the goal at any great pace, is one of those awkward types of savers for the Kiwi keeper. Rutherford just gets her left shoulder to it and the ball is played away by her defence. No score yet, as we enter half time.
As we start the second half, Motomi Kawamura picks the ball up in space within the circle. She plays it and finds an opponents foot; short corner. The shot is saved well by the New Zealand goalkeeper. Two minutes later, Japan attack down the left, enter the circle and win another short corner. The Kiwi’s are curious as to if it was deliberately played over the back line and asks the umpire to refer it. There is no reason to change the decision, according to the video umpire, and NZ lose their right to appeal again. Curiously, just before the injection is taken the Japanese castles at the top of the circle shift slightly to their left. The ball is hit hard and low to the keeper’s right and goes in. Goal! Japan draw first blood and take the lead.
A minute later, the Black Sticks look to get back into the game. Anita McLaren moves the ball from the left of the circle, to the right post. Samantha Harrison looks to deflect in for an equaliser, but it goes wide.
In the tenth minute, three Japanese attackers combine to put the ball just wide. Both teams are creating chances that they should score… Japan are looking lively when they go forward, with Yui Ishibashi, Minami Shimizu and Montomi Kawamura all putting in good performances. New Zealand look like they could score as well, with their two most experienced players, Anita McLaren and Stacey Michelsen, both playing well in midfield. In the 14th minute Olivia Merry puts a shot just wide of the Japanese keepers left post.
In the third minute of the fourth period, Japan intercept the ball just outside the New Zealand circle. The ball is played fed straight into Shimizu. The Rutherford has to commit to her position and the 25 year old take the ball arounds the keeper and slots it into the open goal. It’s the second goal of the game for the team nicknamed the Cherry Blossoms and they are now cruising. Two minutes later Olivia Merry is shown a green card
The Kiwi’s aren’t given up just yet and they are still looking to attack, with Kelsey Smith spinning her marker at top of the circle and plays the ball in to number Samantha Harrison, but she sends it over the bar. In the seventh minute, they get a short corner. During this phase the Black Sicks are awarded another as Smith is fouled on the ball. It’s injected to Anita McLaren, who shoots. The Japanese defender clears off the line and Michelsen, who ran to the left post after her injection sees her rebound saved by the keeper. At this point the game is stopped, as the umpire, awards a penalty stroke for the Japanese post player for using her body to save it on the line. It’s referred, but the original decision is upheld. Now, neither team have a use of the video umpire now.
Anita McLaren steps up to take the penalty stroke. She sends it t the keepers right. Megumi Kageyma sends a foot towards the ball, but is unable to reach it. The 30 year old midfielder gets one back for Nher side, making it Japan 2 – 1 New Zealand.
In the ninth minute, Japan’s number 14, Maho Segawa is shown a green card. The Kiwi’s promptly take advantage of this and win another short corner… As the ball is played to the right three is a foul before the shot is taken and a free hit is awarded to the Japanese and a yellow card for Olivia Merry, for hitting the ball after the whistle. There is only 5mins 35 left, she won’t have much of an impact in what remains. The New Zealand players are really trying to run the screw here, looking to come forward at pace, and create 2 vs 1 eliminations, but ultimately run out of time. The final score finishes 2 – 1 to Japan. The Player of the Match award goes to Minami Shimizu.