The South American hockey power house Argentina started its FIH Pro League campaign in Europe with a double, winning both its men and women matches against Spain at Vaencia on Saturday. The wins came by an identical 1-0 margin.
In the women’s match it was a goal made and scored by the Granatto sisters – Maria made the perfect pass, Victoria turned sharply and fired the ball home. In the men’s game, an opportunistic goal from Tomas Domene was the difference between Spain and Argentina.
The visiting Las Leonas came to Valencia unbeaten in their previous six matches, the only team in the league to have won all its matches to date.
Spain, in contrast, had lost three of its six games but, as debutants to the league, it had surprised everyone by holding the Netherlands to a draw and had beaten current league leaders India, in Bhubaneswar.
Argentina started with a true ferocity and intent and within four minutes, its pressure paid off as Victoria Granatto was able to turn and shoot after her sister, Maria Granatto slipped the ball through to her. The shot itself was a beautifully struck that left Spain’s goalkeeper Mario Tello wrong footed.
Despite a lot of attack and counter-attacks by both the teams, this was the only goal in a tough but sometime chaotic first half.
In the second half, Spain really began to turn up the pressure on its higher-ranked rivals. Clara Ycart in particular was very effective as her close stick skills allowed her to eliminate opponents and create chances for her team to equalise.
However, despite her best efforts, Spain was unable to turn the pressure into goals. Sara Barrios did everything right until it came to the final shot. She twisted and turned past the Argentina defence to create space but then scuffed her shot.
Lucia Jimenez also came close to scoring with a well-timed shot as she ran into the Argentina circle but Belen Succi was up to the challenge and got her stick to the ball and turned it past the post. Minutes later and Spain’s Marta Segu was similarly thwarted by the veteran Argentina goalkeeper.
The game continued at the same high tempo for the duration of the match but unfortunately the speed of play wasn’t matched by the quality of decision-making and no further goals came from either side.
The final minutes of play saw both sides create chances in a final flurry of activity but both Belen Succi and Melanie Garcia were up to the challenge.
Player of the Match, Eugenia Trinchinetti (Argentina) said: ‘Spain is really good team and it was a good game. We are happy to be here in Valencia, it is really beautiful. We are happy with that win and we are preparing for the World Cup so we are looking forward to tomorrow’s game.’
Spain’s Clara Ycart said: ‘We improved every quarter, and in the last half we had some chances to draw or even win. It is very positive. Later today we will look at the points we need to improve upon so we will hope to win or draw tomorrow.
Today’s results mean that Argentina has moved to second spot in the FIH Pro League table behind India, with a game in hand. Spain is in seventh place, on equal points with Belgium.
The first quarter of the men’s intriguing match between Spain and Argentina saw both teams playing a high tempo game as they tested each other’s defensive press set-ups. The work rate by both teams in the opening 15 minutes was exceptional and the quality of passing was top rate but it was a slight hesitation by the Spanish midfield that allowed Argentina to take a lead in the 13th minute.
An error by Enrique Gonzales in the middle of the Spanish half allowed Tomas Domene to grab possession and speed towards the circle. His reverse shot found a small gap between the post and Spain’s goalkeeper Mario Garin.
Argentina came close to doubling its lead with a sharp penalty corner shot but the ball was kept out by a great piece of post play from the Spanish defence.
The visiting side won five penalty corners in the first half but was unable to extend its lead through the set-piece.
The third quarter saw both teams slow the pace of the game a little as they tried to get more ball possession. However, although Argentina looked the more dangerous, neither side really came close to adding to the goal count.
The fourth quarter saw Martin Ferreiro come close to scoring as he intercepted a Spanish pass on the 25 yard line and raced towards the goal. The talented forward’s shot flew over the keeper and was cleared off the line by a retreating Spanish defence.
As the game neared the end, Spain upped the ante and pressured the Argentina defence, but Los Leones are renowned for their disciplined defence and there was no way through for the team in red. By the end of the game, Spain had been into the Argentina circle 19 times, but only managed to get two shots on target.
The result would have been extra disappointing for Joaquin Mendini who won a gold medal with Argentina in 2016 and now is an integral part of the Spanish team.
This victory means Argentina are now in second place in the FIH Pro League, behind India. Spain are in eighth position ahead of South Africa.
Player of the Match, Tomas Domene (Argentina) said: ‘I think we played well today. Spain is a top team but we tried to play our best level. We gave it 100 per cent and played our game, with our tactics.’
Spain 0, Argentina 1
Player of the Match: Eugenia Trinchinetti (Argentina)
Spain 0, Argentina 1
Player of the Match: Tomas Domene (Argentina)