Wednesday 13th February, 2008

 

T&T 5th in Olympic hockey qualifiers

 
 
 
 
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T&T’s captain, Kwandwane Browne, left focuses on the ball while being chased by USA’s Jed Cunningham during their Pool Day Five match at the FIH World Hockey Olympic Qualifier in North Shore City, Auckland, New Zealand, yesterday. USA won 4-2 and met T&T again in the play-off for fifth spot and T&T won 2-1.

T&T finally had the better of the USA in a sporting discipline, when they defeated them 2-1 for a fifth-place finish in the World Hockey Olympic qualifiers in Auckland.

T&T opened the scoring midway through the first half, as Wayne Legerton took advantage of a penalty stroke awarded after a penalty corner had hit the body of a US defender. In a deja-vu experience, repeating yesterday’s match’s events, the USA then turned around the match with goals from Pat Harris, converting a penalty corner with a dragflick, and Jarred Martin, taking advantage of the next corner flick’s rebound.

After the break however, T&T this time managed to pull even again, when Atiba Whittington pushed the ball over the line at the end of a penalty corner variation for his first goal of the tournament—the 100th of the event. With the score now level again, the game grew increasingly physical, and tempers flared. Kwan Browne was yellow carded, and Wayne Legerton soon after, so that for almost three minutes, the USA had a two player advantage.

They could not capitalize on it however, instead seeing one of their own sent off with six minutes to go, and taking the winning goal for T&T while one man down. With Jed Cunningham off the field, it was Dwain Quan Chan who deflected a ball past the US goalkeeper, to give his team the first win of the tournament and 5th place in the final standings.

The individual awards of the tournament went to France (Fair Play Trophy), Juan Manuel Vivaldi of Argentina (Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament), Mark Gleghorne of Ireland (Topscorer), and Blair Hopping of New Zealand (Best Player of the Tournament).

In the final in Auckland, New Zealand grabbed the coveted first place and ticket to Beijing, wringing it from the hands of the Argentines who were inconsolable after having come so close and missed out for the second time after the Panamerican Games five months ago.

Previously, France had pulled a surprise win over Ireland, and T&T had booked their first victory of the tournament to take 5th place.

In the ultimately dramatic final, Argentina were the stronger team in the initial phase, and went one goal ahead when Lucas Vila deflected a penalty corner hit from brother Matias up into the roof of the goal. Unable to capitalize on their early advantage any more, Argentina had to watch New Zealand increasingly gain momentum.

They took the equalizer from Dave Kosoof in the 49th minute, but managed to pull one back three minutes later when Mati Vila sunk a penalty corner. With the pace of the game getting frantic, Argentina could no longer produce the supreme performance of the beginning of the match, and had to watch the game slip away. After a string of chances for New Zealand, Hayden Shaw gave his team the relieving equalizer with 4 minutes to go to keep alive their hopes of the Olympic tournament and take them to extra time.

In extra time, play went back and forth without either team being able to create much danger, but it was eventually New Zealand who got the lucky break, taking full advantage of a penalty corner with only second on the clock. The Black Sticks’ elation and their fans’ celebrations came of course in stark contrast to the tears of the Argentines who for quite a while could not grasp the fact that they had let their ticket to Beijing slip from their hands a second time.

Previous to the final, in the match for 3rd and 4th place, France had surprisingly beat the Irish who were doubly disappointed after ending up in fourth place after having only missed out on the final on goal difference.

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