British women beaten on penalties

HOCKEY
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The Independent Online
Great Britain 0 Netherlands 0 (Netherlands win 4-3 on pens)

Britain's women came tantalisingly close to getting their second bronze medal in two Olympic Games last night but befell the fate of England's footballers in Euro 96 - beaten in a penalty shoot-out.

Kathryn Johnson had the misfortune to play the Gareth Southgate role, having her stroke saved by the Netherlands goalkeeper Jackueline Toxopeus, who dived to her right to save with her body. The contrast of tears and delight exploded over Morris Brown College.

It was a cruel end to a campaign that got better the longer it lasted. Having lost 5-0 to South Korea in their first match, Britain arrived in the medal round on the back of a five-goal thrashing of Argentina.

Jane Sixsmith had got a hat-trick against the Argentines, which took her international total to 50 goals in 113 appearances and it was the Slough striker who carried most of the British threat in a first half in which they were fortunate to remain level with the Dutch.

After five minutes Sixsmith lost her marker and hit a reverse stick shot from the left of the circle which was blocked by the goalkeeper, and frequently her quick stick work and sharp turns perplexed the Netherlands defence.

Her raids were largely isolated, however, because most of the play was in the British half. As early as 30 seconds the Dutch had a short corner that was repulsed only by a desperate charge and block.

But the British hearts beat quickest seconds before half-time. A short corner was flicked towards the top left-hand corner by Dillianne van den Boogaard and pushed away with a dive from Joanne Thompson.

As the Ipswich goalkeeper had also saved two shots from the Dutch leading scorer, Wietske De Ruiter, she proved a more than adequate deputy for Hillary Rose who missed her first match of the tournament with a rib injury.

Having spent much of the first half penned in, Britain burst from their shell after the interval and almost took the lead after 39 minutes. Sixsmith's shot down the right and her cross was met by the outstretched stick of Rhona Simpson. The ball rolled just wide, however.

This stimulated a series of British attacks and Sixsmith was stopped only as she was about to shoot. An even better chance came after 49 minutes when Tina Cullen swept past the defender and had a clear shot at goal. This time Toxopeus got a pad to the ball.

After 60 minutes Britain had the ball in the net when Tammy Miller converted a short corner. The whistle had gone, however, because the shot was too high. It was to prove a prelude to a greater disappointment.

GREAT BRITAIN: Thompson; Brown, Atkins, Johnson, Fraser, Robertson, Davies, Nicholls, Miller, Bennett, Sixsmith. Substitutes: Rose, Cook, Cullen, Simpson, Mould.

NETHERLANDS: Toxopeus; Thate, Koolen, Van den Boogaard, Holsboer, Teeuwen, Steenberghe, Cuipers, Lewin, Donners, De Ruiter. Substitutes: De Heij, Van de Kieft, Duyster, Plesman, Van der Wielen.

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