England to face Australia for women’s hockey gold

Olympics

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BIRMINGHAM, England — A week after the Lionesses became the pride of England for winning soccer’s Women’s European Championship, their compatriots in field hockey are hoping for their own historic moment in Birmingham.

England has claimed a women’s hockey medal in the six previous Commonwealth Games but gold has proved elusive. A thrilling victory over New Zealand in the semifinals Friday gives the English another chance to end the drought.

They will face four-time champion Australia in the Sunday final. The hosts have lost both previous times they played Australia in the title match.

England’s success is a bonus for Commonwealth officials who have placed an emphasis on highlighting women’s sport, with a priority on three major team finals to be staged Sunday.

Branded Super Sunday by organizers, gold medals from the women’s cricket, field hockey and netball finals will all be decided on the penultimate day of the competition.

England edged defending champion New Zealand 2-0 in a penalty shootout to reach the finals. Both teams were held goalless in regular play but Hannah Martin scored England’s second goal in the shootout from four attempts.

In the other semifinal, Australia beat India 3-0 in the shootout after the teams finished regulation play 1-1.

Rebecca Greiner scored in the 10th minute to give Australia the lead but against the flow in the 49th minute, India equalized when Vandana Katariya deflected a shot into the net from close range — the first goal the Australians had conceded in the tournament.

The shootout began in controversy with Australia’s Rosie Malone taking the first shot and missing. But Malone was given a second attempt because the eight-second countdown clock on the scoreboard wasn’t working.

Malone converted her second attempt and her teammates Kaitlin Nobbs and Amy Lawton also scored to send Australia to the final.

“When they called the retake, I was thanking the universe for a second chance,” Malone said. “I knew all of India would hate me if I put it in. But all our other girls got our shootouts in so it’s not like that one shootout was the be all and end all.”

England’s netballers will play Australia in a semifinal Saturday, and the nation’s cricketers face India for a spot in the decider. Australia plays New Zealand in the other women’s cricket semifinal, also Saturday.

In other highlights Friday, India enjoyed success in wrestling when Deepak Punia, Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik all claimed gold medals.

Malik, who won the women’s 62-kilogram (137-pound) class, said the support provided by the strong Indian community in Birmingham helped her succeed.

She edged Canadian Ana Godinez Gonzalez in the final.

“It was amazing to have a crowd presence of this kind,” she said. “At the Tokyo Olympics, there weren’t many Indians … so for a wrestler, it’s amazing to have that presence.

“And then to be trailing at one point and to come back, the crowd played a huge part in getting me to where I wanted to be, which was right on top of the podium.”

George Miller became the oldest Commonwealth Games gold medalist when, at the age of 75, he acted as the director for visually impaired Scottish bowler Melanie Inness. His grandchildren watched from the stands as Miller assisted the para-mixed bowls combination to a 16-9 victory over Wales in the final.

“Bowls is quite easy for older people but any sport, [be it] walking, football, rugby, you name it, get out there [and] exercise. Play games,” he said. “Competing is brilliant, whatever age you are.”

The overall gold-medal race tightened when leaders Australia added a number of other medals on Day 8 but failed to win a gold.

Australia has 50 golds and 140 medals in total, while England now sits just three gold medals behind Australia (47 gold, 131 overall) with three competition days remaining.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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