Hockey: Chinese emphasis on youth pays off against South Korea in Women's Asian Champions Trophy

China's Zhou Yu (left) trying to take the ball off South Korea's Park Ki Ju during the match at the Women's Asian Champions Trophy in Sengkang yesterday. China won 2-0.
China's Zhou Yu (left) trying to take the ball off South Korea's Park Ki Ju during the match at the Women's Asian Champions Trophy in Sengkang yesterday. China won 2-0.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Victory against seasoned South Korea side a fillip as match against undefeated India looms

The Chinese hockey team competing in the Women's Asian Champions Trophy here is largely a developmental one, and so young are their players that head coach Weng Haiqin refers to them as "children" .

Still, that did not stop the squad from beating a South Korean team - whose line-up includes Olympians who finished 11th among 12 teams at the recent Rio Games - 2-0 last night.

There was also good news for Malaysia, who beat Japan 2-0 to post their first win of the competition yesterday.

Taming South Korea allowed the Chinese to record their second win in the five-nation tournament at the Sengkang Hockey Stadium.

The two line-ups could not have been more different. China's oldest player, Ou Zixia, is 21, while the youngest players (three) on the Korean squad are the same age.

Weng, 42, told The Straits Times that while he had expected a gritty performance from his side, their two-goal margin of victory over South Korea was a pleasant surprise.

Beaming, he added: "We entered this competition to see how we would fare against more seasoned teams, and tonight, the kids defended very well and took their chances on attack to score.

"They raised their level of play, and were very brave."

Both sides started strongly, each fending off the other's attacks until Chinese forward Zhang Jinrong opened the scoring in the 29th minute.

China dominated the second half with deft interceptions and swift passes, with Zhang duly scoring her second goal of the match in the 40th minute.

Yesterday's win propelled China to second place in the group standings with six points, trailing leaders India by just one point.

China beat Malaysia 3-1 on Sunday but lost to Japan 0-2 on Tuesday, and will play India in their final round-robin match tomorrow. Japan will take on South Korea. Today is a rest day.

India are undefeated in the tournament, with wins over South Korea and Malaysia, and a draw with Japan.

But Weng is looking forward to the clash with India tomorrow, saying the high level of competition gives his players much-needed match exposure as they prepare for the Junior Women's World Cup in Chile at the end of the month.

Another happy coach last night was Malaysia's Muhammad Dharma Raj, who admitted that they had simply been hoping for a draw against Japan.

But captain Siti Ruhani and Nuraini Rashid scored within two minutes of each other to set up an unexpected win.

Referring to the threat posed by China, Japan, South Korea and India, Dharma Raj said: "In the last 15 years, we have never come close to beating these four teams ... we used to get whipped by them.

"Even a draw today would be a big thing, so for us, this win is almost like we've won the championship. It also sends a message - that we're no longer (the sport's) whipping girls and we are coming after them."

The knockout matches are on Saturday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2016, with the headline 'Chinese emphasis on youth succeeds'. Print Edition | Subscribe