FIH Pro League: Argentina women are champions; the Netherlands stays at top in the men’s league as India wins bonus point against  Belgium

It was a busy day of FIH Pro League action, but one the Argentina women’s team will remember as the day it won its first FIH Hockey Pro League table. 

The Netherlands women team maintained its winning ways when it came back from a 0-2 deficit to defeat  Germany 

Spain and USA women could not be separated in scheduled time but  former came out laughing with a bonus in the shootout. 

The four men’s team’s competing today occupy the top four places in the FIH Pro League, so every result was vital for final placings. The men’s match between Belgium and India was a classic between two teams at the top of their game. It finished 3-3 after India manufactured a fantastic comeback in the final 10 minutes after it went trailing 1-3. India then held on to take the bonus point.

The Germany-Netherlands game mirrored the pattern of the earlier women’s match. The home side took the lead, only to see the Netherlands find its way into the match and eventually overhaul them to strengthen its hold on the league leader board. 

USA was back in FIH Pro League action after a few week’s break. Thanks to its resolute defence it was able to hold Spain to a 1-1 draw, although Spain took the shoot-out bonus point (4-2).

Both USA goalkeepers, Kelsie Robles and Jenny Rizzo were outstanding at times, as they marshalled their defences and pulled off some cracking saves.

Against the run of play, the USA took the lead through a penalty corner from Alia Marshall. The goal, which was scored in the 27th minute, was the result of Ashley Hoffman’s shot, which Marshall pounced on to slot home.

Spain responded almost immediately when a series of attacking moves led to a foul in the circle. Georgia Oliva stepped up to take the penalty stroke and made no mistake from the spot.

USA thought it had taken the lead just before the third quarter break. Lovely stick skills from Erin Matson created the chance and Megan Rogers shot home but just after the whistle had gone.

The final minutes of the match saw Spain pushing and pushing for the winning goal but despite a number of chances, the USA defence was not going to let its chance of a Pro league point slip away.

In the shoot-out, the Spanish strikers held their nerve and took the bonus point. The pick of the shoot-out attempts were Xantal Gine’s lift and follow-up shot and Florencia Amundsen’s final shot that sealed the bonus point.

Player of the Match Florencia Amundson said: ‘I think we could have won, we had a lot of chances. But we won the shoot-out so that was good. [Talking about the Player of the Match award,] It is not about one person, it was a team effort, although of course I am pleased to get the award.’

Greg Drake, Head Coach of the USA said: ’On the balance of the game, I was happy with our second half. We saw more of the game and created a bit more. A little bit of luck, and we could have been in front from the third quarter. We are progressing and I hope for a positive performance tomorrow.’

Spain are now in fourth place in the league with one match remaining. USA remain in ninth position.

The first quarter  of the women’s game saw Netherlands put a huge amount of pressure on the German defence, including a barrage of six penalty corners. Despite some challenging shots from the top of the circle from Frederique Matla and Yibbi Jansen, it was Germany who took the lead. A clever move by Jette Fleschutz took the young player past the Dutch defence and her shot was touched in by Sara Strauss.

Germany extended its lead in the 22nd minute when the Netherlands goal keeper Anne Veenendaal touched the ball with the back of her stick and gave away a penalty stroke which was utilised by  Sonja Zimmermann.

While Germany had the 2-0 lead, it was Netherlands that was enjoying the greater pressure and more clear cut chances. However, it wasn’t until the 32nd minute that the pressure was rewarded. The ever-excellent Xan de Waard intercepted the ball and she sent a pass to Felice Albers, who made no mistake as she fired the ball past Julia Sonntag in the German goal.

The second Dutch goal was made and scored by Lidewij Welten. The multi-capped striker received the ball on the edge of the circle, drew the keeper and then slipped it past her to make it 2-2. 

After numerous penalty corners, Netherlands finally made one count. Frederique Matla’s shot was saved but she collected the rebound, fired it goal wards and watched it fly past Sonntag to give her side the lead.

Germany removed its ‘keeper and went for the equaliser in the final minutes but Netherlands are far too canny to let a slender lead slip and Germany’s final surge came to nothing. 

Player of the Match Maria Verschoor said: ‘I am really happy that we turned it around, the first half wasn’t good enough and we didn’t play with our usual energy. I am glad that we turned that around.’

Netherlands are second in the FIH Pro League at present, behind champions Argentina and seven points ahead of India. Germany are in sixth place. 

An unorthodox goal from captain Mats Grambusch gave Germany the lead in the men’s match against  the Pro League leaders Netherlands. A penalty corner was sent short to Mats Grambusch who was wide of the goal, near the injector. One step and a shot saw the ball fly past Maurits Visser who was caught unawares by the unusual move.

If the first quarter was Germany’s, the second quarter was all about a well taken penalty corner from Tim Swaen and then a moment of genius from Joep de Mol. Swaen’s goal was all power and placement and then de Mol picked up the ball in midfield and then just seemed to glide through the German defence before unleashing a shot that flew into the left corner of Alex Stadler’s goal. The halfway score of 2-1 reflected the way Netherlands had come strongly back into the game.

The third quarter saw the teams continuing to probe for gaps in the opposition’s defence but in the final minutes of the quarter, Germany began to really pile on the pressure. A series of penalty corners gave the Dutch plenty to think about but, in the dying seconds of the quarter Thies Prinz won a penalty corner with some weaving running through the Dutch defence. Gonzalo Peillat’s penalty corner strike was cleverly deflected by Prinz, neatly closing the circle on the player who started and ended the goal.

Netherlands re-established its lead in the 49th minute when Koen Bijen was able to nip behind the German defence and latch onto a cross into the circle. 

That was the last scoring action in the game. Despite a stream of German penalty corners in the final minutes Netherlands held firm and there was no way through. Germany removed Stadler from the goal with two minutes left, but still there was no way through the orange shirts. Player of the Match was Joep de Mol

Germany’s captain Mats Grambusch said: ‘I think we had a very good start and had some attacks that were dangerous. Then we lost control, we had too many turnovers, in fact, we got them back into the game. Our best quarter was the third quarter. Tomorrow we have to not concede goals and we have to score more.’

 The result means Netherlands strengthen its hold at the top of the FIH Pro League. Germany remain in fourth. 

Result: Men
Belgium 3, India 3 (India win shoot-out 5-4)
Player of the Match: PR Sreejesh (India)

Germany 2, Netherlands 3
Player of the Match: Joep de Mol (the Netherlands)

Spain 1, USA 1 (Spain win shoot-out 4-2)
Player of the Match: Florencia Amundson (Spain)

Germany 2, Netherlands 3
Player of the Match: Maria Verschoor (the Netherlands)

Belgium 2, India 1
Player of the Match: Charlotte Engelbert (Belgium)