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Page last updated at 14:46 GMT, Thursday, 15 July 2010 15:46 UK

England women beat China at hockey's Champions Trophy

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Hockey highlights - England 2-1 China

By Ollie Williams
BBC Sport in Nottingham

England's women battled back to defeat China 2-1 in blustery Nottingham and now stand a strong chance of reaching Sunday's Champions Trophy final.

Ma Yibo put China ahead but England drew level through Helen Richardson before Charlotte Craddock won the game.

"We know how good China are but we knew if we kept on attacking, we'd get results," said England's Kate Walsh.

England will definitely reach the final if they beat New Zealand in their last remaining group game, on Saturday.

That would easily outstrip the team's minimum target, which had been a top-four finish in the six-team tournament.

They have yet to place higher than fifth in the history of the Champions Trophy, which unites a selection of six of the world's top teams each year.

Richardson has eyes on glory

The Netherlands are the only team to have definitively outclassed England thus far, defeating them 3-0 on Sunday, but China looked difficult to break down as rain and a ferocious wind rolled across the venue.

Chinese captain Ma's graceful finish to English goalkeeper Beth Storry's left, from a penalty corner in the 12th minute, ended one of few real moments of first-half goalmouth action as both teams battled in midfield.

Laura Unsworth could have done better with a close-range shot near the end of the half, but England found themselves frustrated and unable to threaten the Chinese net.

After the break, with the weather changing constantly, China found themselves pegged back and Richardson - who grew up playing on this pitch - converted well from close range after an English penalty corner had been blocked.

Ashleigh Ball then worked her way through the Chinese defence before her cross-cum-shot was turned in by Craddock, earning England's first Champions Trophy victory over China in five attempts.

"It's a really big result. We knew if we did job and played every minute of the game, we could win, and I'm really proud of our focus," England captain Walsh told BBC Sport.

"Now we've got ourselves into a good position, it's important we're professional and we get those three points out of the last game.

"The months of preparation we've had together are finally paying off. It's more intuitive and instinctive, our fitness is fantastic.

"We need to have belief and we need to get results in order to have belief. I hope that keeps on building."

England now have nine points from four games and are level with unbeaten world and Olympic champions the Netherlands, though the Dutch play Argentina later. Germany, in third, have seven points.

606: DEBATE

New Zealand, England's last group opponents at 1230 BST on Saturday, are bottom having lost all four of their matches so far.

Their latest defeat came at the hands of Germany, who beat them 5-2 earlier on Thursday.

The English team on show here forms the overwhelming majority of the Great Britain women's side, who train regularly as a GB group outside major tournaments.

It is the first time a British team has been kept in place, alongside the home nations, for an entire four-year Olympic cycle, and performance director David Faulkner is targeting a "podium finish" at the London Olympics in 2012.

Britain came sixth at the last Olympic Games, in Beijing in 2008.

Meanwhile, England Hockey have announced that Saturday's matches in Nottingham are a sell-out, following a week in which games have failed to draw a capacity crowd.

Faulkner said attendances at the event so far had been "disappointing" and added that plans to boost crowds at future tournaments in the UK, via changes of venue or marketing campaigns, were being considered.

BBC Sport understands British organisers will make a related announcement late on Thursday regarding the future of major hockey events in the UK.

The women's Champions Trophy, which sits behind the Olympics and World Cup in order of importance, is being held in England for the first time.



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see also
England women edge past Germany
13 Jul 10 |  Hockey
England women lose to Netherlands
11 Jul 10 |  Hockey
England stun Argentina in opener
10 Jul 10 |  Hockey
Nottingham hosts hockey's finest
09 Jul 10 |  Hockey
GB on course for 2012 - Mantell
10 Jul 10 |  Hockey
First England call-up for Twigg
29 Jun 10 |  Hockey


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