Great Britain 4 (1)
Rayer (29’, FG & 50’, FG), Owsley (39’, FG), Unsworth (40’, FG)
South Africa 1 (1)
Walraven (6’, PC)
Great Britain’s women secured their first win at the Tokyo Olympics with a 4-1 victory over South Africa.
Having gone behind early in the match, the team rallied and responded well to the adversity.
Ellie Rayer erased the deficit in the final minute of the opening half with a composed finish on the volley.
Two goals spread a minute apart put GB firmly in the driver’s seat, Lily Owsley deflecting Anna Toman’s attempt over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net, before Laura Unsworth doubled the lead with a fantastic solo goal.
Rayer had her second of the match with only ten minutes remaining to ensure the team would take the three points with a 4-1 triumph.
South Africa started the game brightly and forced Maddie Hinch into making a smart save with less than five minutes on the clock.
There was little Hinch could do to prevent South Africa from taking the lead shortly after, as Nicole Walraven tucked the ball in at the far post to give the side a 1-0 advantage with just six minutes on the clock.
Owsley nearly produced a moment of magic when she weaved her way past numerous defenders to get into the circle, however, last ditch defending would prevent her from finding a telling shot.
Minutes later, Izzy Petter manufactured a chance for herself through clever close control, her shot on the reverse crashing into the side of the goal after shooting from a tight angle.
GB really ramped up the pressure and were rewarded for their endeavours just before the close of the half. Sarah Jones’ shot from the edge of the circle was drifting wide until Rayer popped up at the back post with a nice finish to level the scores in the final minute of play.
The team nearly had another before the end of the half. Giselle Ansley’s drag flick falling in the path of Shona McCallin, but the midfielder was just unable to find the critical touch to send it goalward.
Toman’s slap on goal saw GB start the second half in the same vein as Mark Hager’s side sought another score. The second goal followed a similar style. Toman drilled the ball on goal, this time Owsley finding a decisive deflection to send the ball over the ‘keeper and into the net to put GB 2-1 to the good.
A minute later, Laura Unsworth intercepted a loose ball between the last defenders and, with plenty of time and space, unleashed a fierce drive through the legs of the goalkeeper to add to GB’s advantage.
GB looked firmly in control and added to the score as the game entered the final ten minutes, Rayer bagging her second of the match. In what was a well-crafted move, a perfectly weighted ball found Rayer, who drove at the goal and hammered the ball into the far corner with a clinical finish to give GB a 4-1 victory.
Next up, Great Britain’s women face India on Thursday 28 July at 02:00 BST.
Following the game, Ellie Rayer commented: “It was a good result and we’re really chuffed to come away with the three points.
“Against Germany yesterday we were really happy with how we came out and we executed. Today we started pretty slowly, we sort of let them get into the game and they took the lead early. For us, we need to go away and look at how we can start each game on the money, ready to go, and it doesn’t take a full half of hockey to get into it.
“It was pretty special to get two goals today. But this is why we do it, it’s like any other tournament really, we go out there to get the win. It’s nice to get on the scoresheet but it’s testament to the team and the work that we do together.
“We’re quite lucky in that we get to spend a lot of time together being on a centralised programme, so this feels like quite a normal environment to be in. There’s a lot of other athletes around which is an interesting factor though.
“Obviously we love playing in front of a crowd and these stands here would be incredible to have fans in. But we go out there and we’re still representing our country, we’ve got the badge on our shirts, and that’s what we’re going out here to do. We know there’s people back home watching and around the world watching, so we’re working hard to put some good performances in.”
Starting XI: Hinch (GK), Unsworth, Toman, Jones, Townsend, Robertson, Rayer, Ansley, Pearne-Webb, McCallin, Owsley
Subs: Martin, Petter, Wilkinson, Crackles, Balsdon