FIH Pro League: Argentina women remain unbeatable while Spain men record thrilling win against France

Argentina continues to remain unbeatable in women’s section of the FIH Pro League while Spain  recorded an exciting win against France in men’s section at Valencia on Tuesday. In the women’s match, China took to the field under the guidance of new Head Coach Alyson Annan Argentina continued its unstoppable winning streak as Victoria Granatto showed that class is a trait running through the Granatto family.

Spain took an early lead when Alejandro Alonso fired a penalty corner straight past Arthur Thieffry in the French goal. Aside from that goal, the first 15 minutes was evenly matched with both teams playing expansive, fast-paced hockey. Alejandro Davila had a chance to make it 2-0 but his shot was off-balance and easily saved.

In a mirror image of the first quarter, France scored early to bring the goal tally level. Corentin Sellier won the team in blue a penalty corner and Victor Charlet stepped up to fire home an absolute rocket into the top corner of Mario Garin’s goal.

Alejandro Davila scored Spain’s second goal in the 22nd minute when he pounced on the ball as it  bobbled temptingly in front of the French goal. The shot was created after a sustained spell of Spanish pressure. It was the first senior goal for a delighted Davila.

Seconds later Antonio Sanz almost made it three when he ran into the circle and fired high. Thieffry made the save look relatively easy but the Spanish players were signalling their intent. 

If Spain had intent, France had resolve and just before half-time, Gaspard Baumgarten fired a shot from the top of the circle. The unexpected nature of the shot, plus the ferocity meant that Garin could only watch it fly past him into the goal to make it 2-2.

The third quarter was goalless as both teams sought a way through the opposing defence. While the goals may not have been forthcoming, there was no let-up in tempo and both teams created several attacks but both Thieffry and Adrian Rafi in the Spanish goal were up to the challenge. 

The breakthrough came in the 52nd minute of the fourth quarter. France had been pushing for a goal and Victor Charlet had rattled the Spanish crossbar with another penalty corner strike. This near miss galvanised the Spanish and they raced to the other end of the pitch. Alejandro Alonso’s shot was stopped on the line by a foot and Marc Miralles stepped up to put the penalty stroke home competently. 

At this set-back, France removed its goalkeeper and went all out for the equaliser. The plan backfired when Marc Recasens was able to break through the French defence and score into an empty net. 

The Player of the Match award went to Alejandro Davila who scored Spain’s second goal on just his fourth appearance for the senior team. 

A goalless first half was a clear indication of the way that China were approaching the game. A defensive half-court press meant that Argentina were posed the challenge of how to get past the tight defence and into the circle to create scoring opportunities.

Despite two penalty corners and a lot of possession in the opening quarter, Argentina were unable to make inroads and Lui Ping in the China goal was not pressured too much.

The second quarter saw China coming out of the half a little more as they set their press further up the pitch and put the Argentina defence under some pressure. However, it was Argentina who took the lead. A foul in the circle on Valentina Costa led to a penalty stroke, which Agustina Gorzelany duly dispatched.

The second half saw Argentina extending their lead, not with their usual panache but through sheer hard graft. The second goal came from a passing move that saw Rocio Sanchez pass to Player of the Match Victoria Granatto. She slipped the ball to Agustina Albertarrio, who slotted it home.

The third goal came purely from the skill and determination of Victoria Granatto. She picked up the ball and tore through the Chinese defence before pushing it past the ‘keeper. 

China scored a consolation goal, the first conceded by Las Leonas since they played the USA in April. The scorer was Chen Ling, playing just her fifth game for the national team. 

Player of the Match was unsurprisingly Victoria Granatto. She said: ‘When we start the game, we think of doing everything right and following the plan. Every game we are going step by step. We did a good press and we ran for every ball. Every player just thinks; ‘run, run, run.’

Result: Men
Spain 4, France 2 
Player of the Match: Alejandro Alonso (Spain)

China 1, Argentina 3
Player of the Match: Victoria Granatto (Argentina)