Great Britain sweep to 5-1 win over Japan

Alex Danson in action against Japan 480 x 290

Great Britain 5 (2)
Alex Danson 18, 55 (PS, PS)
Laura Unsworth 20 (PC)
Helen Richardson-Walsh 52 (F)
Sophie Bray 56 (F) 

Japan 1 (0)
Akiko Kato 49 (F)

In Great Britain’s second international fixture in as many days against Japan, the home side put on a fantastic performance in front of 3000 young people from schools across the country. The atmosphere was electric at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre as Great Britain sealed a convincing 5 – 1 victory against the Cherry Blossoms. Three goals in four minutes from Helen Richardson-Walsh, Sophie Bray and Alex Danson in the final quarter did the damage as they added to earlier strikes from Laura Unsworth and Danson.

Great Britain dominated possession in the opening 15 minutes, pressing Japan deep into their half. The deadlock wasn’t broken however until the second quarter when the home side were awarded a penalty stroke in the 18th minute. Danson was fouled in the circle by Japanese goalkeeper Sakiyo Asano as she latched onto Lily Owsley’s reverse stick pass and the No15 stepped up to convert from the spot. Two minutes later, Laura Unsworth slapped home from a penalty corner to give Great Britain a two-goal lead heading into half time.

Japan came out of the blocks quickly in the third quarter, with Hazuki Nagai almost finding the net on a couple of occasions. Firstly she deflected a powerful cross onto the post before substitute goalkeeper Sabbie Heesh was called into action as she saved smartly from Nagai’s penalty corner strike.   

Heesh’s resistance was broken in the final quarter as Akiko Kato pounced on a through ball to beat the outrushing keeper. However, any thoughts of a Japanese comeback were short-lived as Great Britain scored three quickfire goals in the space of four minutes.
Firstly, Helen Richardson-Walsh deflected Danson’s powerful cross past Asano, before the home side were awarded their second penalty stroke of the game which Danson rifled into the top right corner for her 80th goal in international hockey. East Grinstead’s Sophie Bray wrapped up the scoring in the 56th minute as she carved through the Japanese defence and fired an unstoppable reverse stick strike low into the bottom corner, to seal a 5 – 1 victory for Great Britain. 

Speaking after the game, Head Coach Danny Kerry reflected on his team’s performance:
“I’m very happy with the first half - it’s probably the best we’ve played since September 2014. We were dominant, in control and deservedly 2-0 up. The second half was sloppy and we could easily have let Japan back in.  Fortunately they came out to chase the game and that allowed us to cut them open a bit more, but it wasn’t a complete performance. We created and took our chances which was positive and Sabbie Heesh played well in the second half, saving some good corners. A couple of players who didn't play yesterday got a run out after injury and illness which was great for them.”

On the importance of these preparation games in the run up to the World League Semi Finals (Olympic qualifiers) in June:
“It’s good to get into the mindset of bringing your best game to every moment of the match so these types of series are ideal for us. Japan are a very disciplined side, strong in defence and pose good counterattacking threats. It’s about concentrating for the whole game and it was perfect for us.”

Great Britain and Holcombe defender Laura Unsworth also spoke to us post match, watch her interview below:

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