The Vantage Black Sticks Men have used a fourth-quarter goal to in-form striker Simon Child to see off the Korean challenge in match one of the two test series between New Zealand and Korea. The Kiwis will head into the second game tomorrow knowing that a win or draw will see them book their place at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Looking sharp early in the match the New Zealanders looked to control the possession and tempo. New Zealand were rewarded with the first goal of the match when a great ball along the sideline was then crossed towards a diving Stephen Jenness who slapped the ball into the back of the goal. The Korean side were then looking to slow the Kiwis down and work their way back into the contest. With only 20 seconds to go in the first quarter, Namyong Lee managed to evade several Black Sticks defenders and tie the match up at one goal apiece.
Heading into the second quarter the New Zealand team was looking to put the disappointment of a last-second goal behind them as they aimed to reassert their dominance over the match. And so it proved as Hugo Inglis, back after injury prevented him playing in the recent TSB Community Trust Series against Japan, produced an outstanding pass for Stephen Jenness who deflected the ball into the goal for his second goal of the day. The game continued to be played at a frenetic pace as the Korean side was scrambling well and denying the New Zealand side on several occasions.
New Zealand went into the half time sheds holding a narrow 2-1 lead over a dogged Korean side that was not giving up on the match and were starting to put the New Zealand Men under some significant pressure. Only three minutes into the 3rd period Korea produced a quick counter-attack that drew a penalty corner. The resulting drag-flick struck Simon Child on the line and the umpires called a penalty stroke. Jonghyun Jang stepped up to the spot and slotted a fantastic stroke to draw the Korean side back level.
At 2-2, heading into the final quarter, the match was on a knife-edge as the Koreans were looking confident and playing with increased focus. However, the Black Sticks were resolute weathering the early storm and as the Korean side began to tire the Kiwis started constructing several opportunities. Stephen Jenness then played the assister this time as he crashed in a great cross ball for a diving Simon Child on the far post to net what proved to be the winner. New Zealand behind in-form goalkeeper Leon Hayward held out the Koreans and kept their one-goal lead intact to take out the match 3-2.
The two sides will return for match two tomorrow at the TET Multi Sports Centre in Stratford at 3:00 pm. Tickets are still available from Dash tickets or you can check out the action live on Spark Sport.
Vantage Black Sticks Men 3 (Stephen Jenness 3, 17 min, Simon Child 52 min)
Korea 2 (Lee Namyong 15 min, Jonghyun Jang 33 min)