22 Jun 2017

Black Sticks beat Spain in World League semi-final

9:03 am on 22 June 2017

The New Zealand women's hockey team has beaten Spain 1-0 in their opening match at the World League Semi Final in Brussels.

Olivia Merry scored the only goal of the match.

Olivia Merry scored the only goal of the match. Photo: Photosport

It was a strong defensive effort from the Black Sticks while a first half penalty corner proved the difference with Olivia Merry delivering the crucial strike.

Following on from last week's four test series against Spain in Barcelona, the Black Sticks opened the match with high intensity against a familiar foe.

Spain held the bulk of possession in the first half but the Kiwis were organised and effective on defence to ward off the danger.

New Zealand's goal came in the 19th minute from a penalty corner, which Merry received at the top of the circle and smashed a forehand shot low and into goal off a defender's stick.

The second half was a much more even affair with both sides creating half chances but neither able to convert anything onto the score sheet.

Head coach Mark Hager said while there were plenty of things to work on, it was pleasing to bank three points for a win.

"We started well early on but then allowed Spain to take control and they were all over us in the second quarter," he said.

"I was happy to see Liv convert that penalty corner - that's something that needed improving after our Spain series and it came at the right time today.

"We've now got two days off before we play again which is good and bad, you like to get into a rhythm at tournaments but it also gives us more time to prepare for a tough game which will be played in hot conditions."

New Zealand's next game is against Australia, who beat Malaysia 3-nil in their opening game.

Brussels is the first of two World League Semi Final events, with the other being held in Johannesburg next month.

The top four finishers in Brussels will qualify for the FIH Women's World League Final in Auckland this November, with the Black Sticks are already guaranteed a place as hosts.