FIH Pro League: Unbeatable Leonas; German draw with Argentina; England men flaw France; and China finds winning ways   

Argentina women continued to dominate the FIH Pro League as they recorded their 12th win, beating a Germany who were slightly below par today. Germany men came from behind to draw with Argentina and then took the shoot-out bonus point. At Lee Valley Tennis and Hockey Centre in London, England men beat France for the second time in two days, while China recorded their first win against England since 2014.

Argentina got off to the brightest of starts when Maria Granatto opened the scoring in the first minute of play. Granatto’s sister Victoria nearly made it two but her shot struck the post, much to goalkeeper Nathalie Kubalski’s relief. 

Las Leona’s second goal came in the 11th minute when Agustina Albertarrio slipped the ball to Jimena Cedres, who sent the ball into the goal with real venom in the shot.

Kubalski showed why she is first choice for the German team when she pulled off a magnificent save from a rasping penalty corner sent in by Agustina Gorzelany. The agile ‘keeper dived to her right to edge the ball round the post.

The importance of those saves was amplified when a fantastic shot by Nike Lorenz brought the scores to 2-1. Belen Succi made two excellent saves in quick succession but even she was powerless when Lorenz sent the ball high into the left=hand corner of her goal.

The two-goal cushion was restored in the third quarter when Maria Granatto scored her second goal – a sliding deflection from a penalty corner. Germany went straight down the other end for their own penalty corner attempt but Succi is currently in fabulous form and once again the tall ‘keeper reacted brilliantly to keep the ball from the net.

The scores stayed the same for the final quarter as Argentina maintained their composure and Germany were just unable to find a way through a highly organised defence. 

Player of the Match, Argentina’s goalkeeper Belen Succi said: ‘We are very happy because we keep winning and that is important as we get closer to the World Cup.’

Anne Schroeder gave a very honest appraisal of her team’s performance: ‘We are 100 per cent not satisfied because we wanted to be better than yesterday. Argentina are further down the line than in us. They have no changes from their Tokyo side and we have lots of changes. Right now we are not good enough to beat them.’

A busy first quarter saw both Tomas Santiago and Jean Danneberg brought into action in the Argentina and German goals. However, it was the visitors who found the net, Jose Tolini sending the penalty corner home in the final minute of the quarter.

Despite a lot of pressure in the midfield from Germany, the Argentina defence held very firm and maintained their narrow 1-0 grip on the game. A disappointed Head Coach Andre Henning said this was Germany’s ‘worst performance this year’.

That all changed in the third quarter when Timo Oruz drove the ball into the circle. Marco Miltkau received the ball from Oruz in the circle with his back to goal. The striker spun round and fired the ball high into the top of the Argentina goal. The scores remained at 1-1 for the remainder of the quarter and the scene was set for the final quarter.

Despite the best efforts of both teams, the final, tense final 15 minutes saw no further goals and so the game went to a shoot-out. Germany won the shoot-out and bonus point after four clinical attempts and two good saves from Danneberg meant the home side took five points from a possible six over the weekend.

The results will be a disappointment to Agustin Bugallo who would have preferred to celebrate his 100 caps with a win.

Player of the Match: Marco Miltkau said: ‘It was the second match of the weekend and we had problems in the first half with our attitude and our performance. In the second half we came back fighting.’

The result means that Germany move to second in the league behind India and one place ahead of Argentina in third.

England started its second match against France at a high tempo and was rewarded with two goals before half time. Nick Bandurak scored both goals, on each occasion France had been reduced to 10 players after green cards were handed out. Bandurak’s drag flicks were beautifully placed just inside the goalkeeper’s left post and sent home with such power that the defender on the post had no chance of stopping them.

Despite several attempts in the third quarter, England were unable to add to the score. Both Sam Ward and Bandurak failed to convert penalty corner opportunities and Matthew Ramshaw will rue a scuffed shot after he sprinted half the pitch to get himself into a great scoring position. 

France, for their part, lacked the attacking ambition of the previous day and Oliver Payne in the England goal was rarely called into action.

The fourth quarter saw two further goals. First David Condon was the beneficiary of a fabulous passing move by the England midfield and then Sam Ward was on hand to convert a penalty corner after Ramshaw was fouled on route to goal.

Player of the match James Albery said: ‘I thought the team really turned up today. From minute one we were at it. We probably should have had more goals. It was a much better performance defensively.’

In the women’s match, England took the lead in the opening quarter through a penalty corner strike from Grace Balsdon. The penalty corner was won following a blistering run from Hannah Martin that drew a foul as she wrong-footed the China defence.

China for its part were playing an expansive game of hockey. Players such as Zhang Xiaoxue and Li Hong were demonstrating a compelling mix of speed and 3D skills that really gave the England defence a challenge that had been missing for much of the previous match. 

The third quarter saw China step up and really pressure the England defence. The visitors were rewarded just two minutes into the quarter when Zhang Zindan was able to scoop the ball over Sabbie Heesh after a melee in the England circle. The move started with a series of slick passes by the China team that left England chasing shadows.

The game was put beyond doubt when a series of passes through midfield earned China a penalty corner. The ball pinged around the circle until Chen Yanhua was able to flick it past Sabbie Heesh.

China last beat England in 2014 at the Women’s World Cup, so this was quite a moment for China under its new Head Coach Alyson Annan. 

The Player of the Match was China goal scorer Zhang Xindan. Her head coach Alyson Annan said: ‘I think we dominated the second half. We got into trouble a few times and we still made mistakes, defence is something we need to work hard on. We are taking little steps but we are making improvements. We have scored a goal and that will give us confidence. We have scored a goal in every game we have played, so I am really pleased. The athletes played wonderfully.’

Result: Men

England 4, France 1
Player of the Match: James Albery (England)

Germany 1, Argentina 1 (Germany win shoot out 4-2)
Player of the Match: Mirco Miltkau (Germany)


Germany 1 Argentina 3 
Player of the Match: Belen Succi (Argentina)

England 1, China 3
Player of the Match: Zhang Xindan (China)