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London 2012: GB’s golden hockey hopes dashed

22:25 08 August 2012

Great Britain players drop to their knees after losing their semi-final against Argentina

Great Britain players drop to their knees after losing their semi-final against Argentina

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We’re not going home empty-handed says Cullen

Team GB 1 Argentina 2

Great Britain’s gold medal hopes were shattered by Argentina on an emotional night at the Riverbank Arena.

Trailing by two goals at the half-time break, after a frustrating first period, the hosts fought back gallantly after the restart.

Alex Danson’s fourth goal of the tournament, with only five minutes left, gave them late hope, but it wasn’t to be and they will face New Zealand in the bronze medal play-off on Friday afternoon.

There were plenty of tears in the British camp but Crista Cullen remained defiant, saying: “To some extent we came here to win gold and the realisation that we’re not in that fight any more, we’re so devastated not to be in the gold medal play-off, we deserve to be.

“We need time to reflect and get emotional, we’ve fought for this for seven years, but then we have to put our game face on and come out and make sure we do not go home empty-handed.

“We fought our little hearts out and I’m so proud to be British.”

Successive defeats at the hands of China and defending champions Holland in the group phase had robbed the Brits of some of their momentum, following three straight wins at the start of the tournament.

And after seeing the Dutch beat a dogged New Zealand in the first penalty shoot-out in Olympic hockey history earlier today, they found themselves behind inside five minutes as Noel Barrionuevo flicked home a penalty corner from just inside the circle.

Argentina had scored early when the two sides met in the Champions Trophy earlier this year, before shutting the game down, and they looked dangerous in possession again.

GB, on the other hand, were conceding the ball too easily and even Kate Walsh made a mistake inside her own 16, handing Delfina Merino a chance to attack the circle.

But the British skipper redeemed herself with a superb stick tackle from behind, which livened the crowd up, and Danson’s reverse-stick attempt flew just wide of the near post as the half-hour mark approached.

GB were left incensed moments later, however, when Argentina captain Luciana Aymar attacked on the left wing and threaded a pass through to Carla Rebecchi, who stickhandled her way around the onrushing Beth Storry and touched it over the line. Walsh led the protests, with GB claiming there had been an obstruction in the build-up to the goal, but as the incident occurred outside the 23-yard line they could not go to a video referral.

Returning for the second half almost three minutes early, the Brits were awarded an early penalty corner after the restart when the ball struck an Argentine foot as Ashleigh Ball looked to pounce at close range.

But Cullen’s drag flick was blocked by Macarena Rodriguez Perez and an audible ‘oh’ went up in the stands behind the goal.

Ball fired a speculative effort across the circle moments later, as the crowd came to life once more, and Danson produced a gutsy run, which was halted illegally.

Danson could not get enough on a shot from the right of the circle, which Florencia Mutio comfortably kicked behind, and Nicola White’s driven ball in from the same side was deflected behind.

A good touch pass from Helen Richardson then diverted Walsh’s long ball into the circle for Hannah Macleod, but she could not get a shot away as Argentina’s massed defence closed in.

Josefina Sruoga was shown a green card midway through the half, but when Emily Maguire’s hit into the circle was deflected into the path of Richardson, in space on the left, she scuffed her shot behind.

Aymar received a green card with 10 minutes left, but Argentina held firm until the 65th minute when Richardson drove the ball in from the right and Danson touched it home from close range to set up a thrilling finale.

Every time GB moved forward the crowd began to roar, but time ran out on their bid and they will now have to pick themselves up quickly.

Cullen added: “The way it happened, to be 2-0 down at half-time with an element of controversy about the second goal, was a frustrating position to be in.

“There was an obstruction which blocked a defending player and it was an incredibly frustrating goal to concede.

“But all credit to the girls. There’s not one who I wouldn’t want to stand next to.

“We took them to the wire. The amount of possession we had in the second half, we were genuinely in it and throwing the kitchen sink at them.

“They were resorting to throwing aerials out to relieve the pressure.”

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