This Champions Trophy has been billed the Best of the Best and it certainly lived up to the hype. The match between Australia and Argentina got off to a cracking start, with both sides creating opportunities, and the relentless pace of the game didn’t abate for the entire 60 minutes.
Two distinct styles of play were on show: the structure and physicality of the Hockeyroos; and the originality and sheer magic of the Argentine side.
With Australia using the width well, creating room for Edwina Bone and Georgia Nanscawen to run at the Argentine defence from their own deep midfield, all Las Leonas defensive ability was tested. But the players stepped up to the mark, with Rosario Luchetti in particular showing her class and sheer bravery.
At the other end of the pitch, two moments of beautiful hockey nearly put the host nation ahead. Luciana Aymar, playing in her last major international, made a dazzling run into the Hockeyroos circle, but the subsequent shot from Carla Rebecchi was saved by Ashlee Wells in the Australian goal and moments later, the Argentinian legend dropped a ball into the path of Delfino Merino, again forcing a save from Wells.
The teams were evenly matched in terms of chances and possession, but the danger player for the Australians was new cap Kathryn Slattery. The forward has had an excellent Champions Trophy and her positioning throughout the first half put her into great scoring situations. A few near-misses, including a one-on-one with Belen Succi, marked Slattery’s inexperience, but those misses were made up for when she put away the opening goal in the 35th minute.
This deficit was eliminated four minutes later when Aymar’s penalty corner strike was deflected into the top of the net by Florencia Habif (39′).
With one minute on the clock in the third quarter, the Hockeyroos came close to doubling the score, only to find Succi continuing her sensational form between the posts.
With 15 minutes left, Australia Slattery, then Emily Smith drew a double save from Succi; seconds later the ball was pinging across the front of the Australia goal, fired in by Rochio Sanchez. This relentless pressure continued and the entire, packed stadium were on the edge of thir seats.
The last two minutes of regulation time saw the game see-saw from one end to the other. Martina Cavallero, playing her 100th match for Las Leonas, nearly provided the breakthrough, but Wells was up the challenge and kept the ball out.
Neither side could find the breakthrough goal, and so the match went into shoot-out mode.
Aymar started the ball rolling with a fantastic early shot that caught Ashlee Wells unprepared and this signalled the end of the story. Two misses from the Australians and further Argentinian goals from Carla Rebecchi and Silvinia D’Elia put the game out of the Hockeyroo’s sight and Luciana Aymar’s career had the perfect ending.