It was a day of drama, late goals, sublime skills, mesmerising teamwork and magnificent individual performances. As the FIH Hockey Pro League nears its final stages, the hockey action on offer has reached extraordinary levels. Whether it is the sheer power of a Stephanie vanden Borre penalty corner, the precision of a Xan de Waard pass or the teamwork that led to the India men’s opening goal, the choice of best moments runs long following this weekend of hockey.
Spain kicked things off by overcoming a spirited and resolute USA team. Netherlands women looked ominously good as they outplayed Germany, while Germany men turned the tables on the Netherlands when they grabbed the momentum and all three points after a sparkling second half performance.
Belgium men and women both found success against India, albeit in very different ways. Belgium Red Panthers seemed to hit a new gear as they strode to a comprehensive 5-0 victory. The men had to battle to the final seconds of a game that was full of everything that is good about hockey – pace, skill, teamwork and the courage to take risks.
It was all about Spain in the opening quarter of the match between the Red Sticks and the USA. Spain held two thirds of the possession and hammered repeatedly at the USA defensive circle. The USA defence however, were resolute in the face of the waves of pressure and there was a sense of growing frustration in the Spanish ranks.
Spain’s woes increased when the USA burst out of the stranglehold press that the Red Sticks had on them. They raced to the other end of the field and drew a foul. Erin Matson showed her composure as she stepped up to send the penalty stroke past Melanie Garcia to put her team ahead.
Spain answered in the 36th minute when Sara Barrios scored her first goal for the senior team. The forward was on hand to pounce on a loose ball and play it over USA’s keeper Jenny Rizzo.
USA again took the lead against the pattern of play when a rare counterattack drew a foul in the Spanish circle. Ashley Hoffman sent the ensuing penalty corner into the Red Sticks goal.
With 29 shots to the USA’s three and 43 circle penetrations to their opponents eight, Spain knew they had to somehow rescue this match. And it was Begona Garcia who came to the rescue with two almost identical goals from penalty corner melees. The multi-capped midfielder was on hand to pick up the rebound on two consecutive penalty corner routines, breaking the USA’s hearts in the process as they had been just three minutes from a first Pro League win this season. For Spain, this was a first win over USA since 2008
Player of the Match, Georgina Oliva (ESP) said: ‘It was a tough game. They are very physical. We were losing so we had to focus and keep fighting. Now we are happy but it was tough. Small details in the second half made the difference. We had the same situations in the first half but we dealt with them better in the second half.’
This match marks the end of Spain’s Pro League adventures and, on current standings, they are in fourth place in the league. USA remain in ninth position.
The Netherlands looked imperious in the opening half of their second match of the weekend against Germany. The opening goal was scored in the 10th minute by Freeke Moes. It was created by Laurien Leurink who slipped a lovely pass through the German defence to Moes who then lifted it past Julia Sonntag into the goal.
The second goal was scored by Xan de Waard who was in the perfect position to deflect the ball from Sanne Koolen into the goal from a penalty corner.
Germany found their attacking verve in short waves of play but there was nothing consistent in their play and the Netherlands defence didn’t look too troubled by their efforts. Charlotte Stapenhorst, Anne Schröder and Pia Maertens all looked capable of changing things for the home nation but, despite good build-up play, the final touch was missing.
Germany finally found a breakthrough in the 35th minute when Sara Strauss was fouled on route to goal. Captain Sonja Zimmermann stepped up to send the penalty stroke past Josine Koning. That goal gave the home team a boost and a few minutes later Koning was called on to make a save from a fantastic upright reverse stick shot from Pauline Heinz.
Netherlands put a cushion between themselves and Germany when Yibbi Jansen stepped up to send home a penalty stroke after a foul on Albers as the striker made her way goal wards. That goal has put Jansen at the top of the FIH Pro League scoring table, ahead of Agustina Gorzelany of Argentina.
This win for the Dutch means they have not been beaten by Germany since 2008, a run of 28 games.
Player of the Match Laurien Leurink (the Netherlands) said: ‘I think we started well but the third and fourth quarter were not so good. We made some good progression towards the World Cup. In the process of where we are, I am really proud of the team.
The result means Netherlands are second in the FIH Pro League at present, behind champions Argentina and seven points ahead of India. Germany remain in sixth place.
This was a game of shifting momentums as first Netherlands and then Germany took control of the tempo of the match. Netherlands got off to a dream start when Thierry Brinkman lifted the ball daintily into the circle for Koen Bijen to trap and then shoot past Niklas Garst. The first quarter and much of the second was then all about the Netherlands as they burst into the sort of pace and skill levels that have become synonymous with the team in this Pro League campaign.
Head Coach Jeroen Delmee and his team will rue, however, the fact that they couldn’t find a way to extend their lead during this period because suddenly it all changed.
A beautifully weighted ball by Teo Hinrichs found full-back Moritz Ludwig way out of position in the Netherlands circle. Ludwig’s goal sparked a change in momentum and Germany began to play with all the flowing energy that had been the preserve of the Dutch until that moment.
Five minutes later and Marco Miltkau was on the score-sheet as he deflected a penalty corner strike by Gonzalo Peillat. This was no accidental deflection, the move had all the hallmarks of time on the training field.
The third goal came from a mess-up of a penalty corner. Somehow Niklas Bosserhoff turned error to success as he slammed the ball down the centre of the goal to extend Germany’s lead.
The fourth and final goal came from a lovely pass from Christopher Ruhr. The forward played the ball off his back foot into the Netherlands’ circle and Constatin Staib was on hand to pick and shoot.
Player of the Match Teo Hinrichs (GER) said: ‘I get energy from the team. We played well yesterday but didn’t get the result, but today we pushed from minute 1 to minute 60. We have had a few tough weeks but now it is time to have a few weeks break, think about other things and come back strong.’
The result means Netherlands are still in pole position at the top of the FIH Pro League, two points ahead of India. At the end of their campaign, Germany remain in fourth with only England able to catch them.
Belgium 3, India 2
Player of the Match: Arthur de Sloover (Belgium)
Germany 4, Netherlands 1
Player of the Match: Teo Hinrichs (Germany)
Spain 3, USA 2
Germany 1, Netherlands 3
Belgium 5, India 0