Sixsmith sends Britain to Sydney

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The Independent Online

Jane Sixsmith has scored many an important goal in her long and distinguished career, but perhaps none more important to herself and British hockey than her 42nd-minute strike in the Olympic qualifying tournament at Milton Keynes last night which gave Britain a 1-0 win against China.

The victory put Britain on top of their pool and gave them one of the four automatic qualifying places. Britain now play Spain in one semi final tomorrowafternoon with Germany playing New Zealand in the second.

The 32-year-old, playing in her 305th international, booked her ticket for her fourth Olympics when, after a precisely taken free hit by Kath Johnson, Britain's captain Sue Chandler found Sixsmith on the edge of the circle. She moved majestically forwards, held off two tackles to pick her spot for the only goal of the game.

Earlier Britain had dominated the game for long periods without being able to get the ball past the Chinese goalkeeper. On the break, however, the Chinese always looked dangerous and, in particular, in a three-minute period on the half hour when Britain survived four penalty corners which included a fine save from goalkeeper Hilary Rose and a final desperate clearance by 18 year old Helen Richardson, one of the fourheroines of Britain's defence.

Ireland's hopes of automatic qualification evaporated when they lost 2-0 to Spain, the 1992 Olympic champions. Ireland must now win their last two games to qualify. They will meet China in their first game.

GREAT BRITAIN: H Rose (Bury); H Richardson (Fyffes Leicester), M Clewlow (Canterbury), F Greenham (Slough), K Johnson (Harleston Magpies); J Smith (Slough), S Chandler. (Slough, capt), D Marston-Smith (Clifton); J Sixsmith (Sutton Coldfield), L Wright (Fyffes Leicester), T Cullen (Hightown). Substitutes used: K Bowden (Fyffes Leicester), P Miller (Fyffes Leicester), M Nicholson (Slough).

CHINA: Yali Nie; Hongbing Yang; Wanfeng Zhou, Fengyu Long Capt., Junxia Huang; Lijie Liu, Hui Cheng, Lihong Shen; Huiping Yang, Jiuyan Wang, Chuling Tang. Substitutes used: Juan Li, Qiuqi Chen, Xuemei Cai, Xialan Hou.

Umpires: J Buchanan (South Africa),U Conen (Germany).