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Hockeyroos storm into final yet face fight for survival

Date: 19/07/2009
Words: 394
Source: SHD
          Publication: Sun Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 74
THE Hockeyroos defeated Olympic champions the Netherlands 2-1 in Sydney yesterday to qualify for the gold medal match at the Champions Trophy tournament.

Australia will play Argentina in the final today and may have to beat the defending champions if they are to avoid relegation from the elite six-nations tournament.

A goal by brilliant midfielder Casey Eastham and a penalty stroke to Nicole Arrold sealed the against-the-odds victory for Frank Murray's side.

The young Hockeyroos matched it with the Beijing gold medallists and were able to dictate the pace of the match. They were gutsy in defence and put their bodies on the line.

Eastham, a standout of the Hockeyoos' Trophy campaign, got Australia off to the perfect start when she scored her third goal of the tournament in only the second minute.

But the Dutch, known for their danger at penalty corners, drew level from their first set piece when Maartje Paumen beat Hockeyroos goalkeeper Toni Cronk in the ninth minute.

Arrold gave Australia a 2-1 lead in the 43rd minute when she slammed the ball into the backboard from a penalty stroke awarded to the Hockeyroos after Megan Rivers was fouled by Janneke Schopman just as she was about to shoot. Schopman appealed at length to the umpire to reverse her decision and was lucky to not receive a yellow card for dissent.

Cronk proved her worth when she saved two penalty corner attempts in the second half when the Dutch were pressing to draw level.

Kate Hollywood, in her 100th match, played with plenty of passion and had a high work rate.

With five minutes remaining, star Dutch midfielder Naomi van As was sent off and Australia enjoyed an extra player on the field.

England will host next year's tournament and have automatic qualification for the event as will the winner of the Champions Challenge, a qualifying tournament for lower-ranked nations, in South Africa in October.

If England finish last, relegation will be decided on Olympic ranking, according to an International Hockey Federation ruling clarified yesterday, which would mean world No.5 Australia may drop out of the tournament for the first time in its inception in 1987.

Australia, who have not won the Champions Trophy since 2003, will be sweating on an England victory against China in the fifth versus sixth play-off today, which is unlikely as they lost to China 4-1 yesterday.

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