FIH Pro League 2020: Netherlands women suffer first defeat at the hands of Las Leonas, NZ women complete a double over the USA

FIH Pro League 2020: Netherlands women suffer first defeat at the hands of Las Leonas
FIH Pro League 2020: Netherlands women suffer first defeat at the hands of Las Leonas

American giants and Pan Games champions Argentina women – Las Leonas – welcomed the FIH Pro League 2020 with a stunning 2-0 victory over reigning World, European and Pro League champions, the Netherlands.

However, the visiting defending champions in men’s section, exacted avenge with a penalty shootout win over the hosts, who also happen to defending Olympic champions.

In other games, while New Zealand women completed a comfortable double against the USA, the men squared the scores with an impressive win over Spain in the second game after losing the first yesterday, defeated the hosts in one of four FIH Hockey Pro League matches to take place in recent hours. There were also positive results for the Netherlands

On Saturday evening at CENARD in Buenos Aires, Olympic champions Argentina men twice fought back from a goal down to secure a 2-2 draw against the Netherlands, but it was the Dutch who prevailed in the shoot-out, producing a clinical display to claim the bonus point. The result sees the Dutch climb up to second in the FIH Hockey Pro League standings, moving ahead of India but still some five points behind league leaders Belgium.

A frenetic, error-strewn first quarter saw the Dutch take the lead thanks to a close range finish from Mirco Pruijser, only for Lucas Martinez to pull Argentina level before Billy Bakker instantly re-established the lead for the Netherlands. Argentina eventually tied the match in the fourth quarter when Jose Tolini arrowed a penalty corner drag-flick into the roof of the Dutch net. However, the

Netherlands were excellent in the shoot-out, with Jeroen Hertzberger, Glenn Schuurman and Jonas de Geus on target as Argentines Nicolas Keenan, Martin Ferreiro and Agustin Mazzilli faltered.

“I think we dominated the first half and the third quarter”, said Netherlands striker Mirco Pruijser, who was named Player of the Match. “We had the chance for 3-1 or 4-1, but they scored to make it 2-2 and then you see the shoot-outs, and I’m very happy that we won them. I think we played a very good match, in the end a draw, but for tomorrow I think we need to fight harder.”

In the second match in Buenos Aires on Saturday evening, Argentina women claimed a stunning 2-0 victory over reigning World, European and Pro League champions the Netherlands. It was a third win in three games for Las Leonas, leaving them three points behind a Dutch team that they will face again on Sunday evening.

The host nation produced a superb defensive display to keep the world number one ranked team off the scoreboard throughout the contest, whilst registering goals of their own in the third and fourth quarters of the match. Agustina Gorzelany scored a wonderful penalty corner drag-flick in the 35th minute, sending her unstoppable effort into the top right corner. The points were wrapped up in the final minutes of the match by Delfina Merino, who finished off a fine passing move by smashing a backhand strike into an open goal shortly after the Netherlands replaced their goalkeeper with an outfield player in an effort to salvage the game.

Speaking in the post-match interview, Player of the Match Agustina Albertarrio said: “It was a really tough game. I think we [played] a good game and we won it, so we are very happy and thinking about tomorrow.”

In Christchurch, New Zealand’s women worked their way past a determined USA team for a 3-1 victory and back to back wins for the first time in the 2020 FIH Hockey Pro League. New Zealand captain Stacey Michelsen produced a Player of the Match performance, being instrumental in two of the New Zealand goals and was a constant threat throughout.

Olivia Merry put the Black Sticks ahead in the 16th minute with Michelsen doubling the lead mid-way through the third quarter. Danielle Grega pulled a goal back for USA early in the fourth quarter before Alia Jaques sealed a New Zealand win that moves the Black Sticks up to second in the Pro League standings.

 A victory for the Black Sticks men over Spain ensured it was a day of double celebration for New Zealand’s national teams, with a 3-2 win over the Red Sticks being their first ever FIH Hockey Pro League win in regular time.

The hosts established a 2-0 lead thanks to strikes from Kane Russell and Steve Edwards before Alvaro Iglesias reduced Spain’s deficit ahead of the fourth and final quarter. However, a second goal for Player of the Match Kane Russell arrived with four minutes of the match remaining and proved decisive, with Pau Quemada netting what proved to be a consolation effort in the final minute. The result sees New Zealand climb off the bottom of the table, moving ahead of Argentina into eighth place, with Spain in fourth position.

The first match of the FIH Hockey Pro League yesterday saw action in Christchurch, with New Zealand women claiming all three points against USA before the Black Sticks men fell to defeat against Spain.

The Black Sticks women put a tough week behind them to put together a convincing 3-1 win over the USA. Olivia Merry and Olivia Shannon continued their goal scoring form for the hosts as they secured their second win of the FIH Hockey Pro League, moving up to third in the standings.

The two sides walked out to pitch on a sober note, following the recent passing of New Zealand’s long-time strength and conditioning coach Brad Conza. The two teams observed a moment of silence prior to the start of the contest. Once the match got underway, the Kiwis were playing with some great speed as they looked to run the United States off the pitch. Olivia Merry scored her fifth goal of the 2020 Pro League season with a first quarter penalty corner, with Olivia Shannon doubling the advantage in the second period with a penalty corner of her own, volleying home a rebound. Player of the Match Rose Keddell made it 3-0 with a superb backhand strike in the third quarter, before USA’s Ali Campbell pulled a goal back just before the start of the fourth quarter from the penalty spot. It proved to be only a consolation, with the Black Sticks taking all three points in the first of their two matches against the Americans.

Speaking after the match, New Zealand’s Rose Keddell said: “I think today we were a little bit patchy. We had some really good attacks, but overall, we needed to play intense for the whole 60 minutes, and we lacked a little bit. We’ll go home and review it and hopefully tomorrow we’ll bring a little bit more. We had our opportunities, that’s for sure.”

In the men’s match, Albert Beltran produced a stellar performance by scoring twice as visitors Spain claimed a fine 4-1 victory over New Zealand, a result which sees the Red Sticks move up to fourth in the table, level on points with the Netherlands but having played three more matches.

Roc Oliva put the visitors ahead with a bustling run and finish late in the first quarter before Beltran fired home from a difficult angle mid-way through the second period. Kane Russell pulled a goal back with a third quarter penalty corner drag-flick, but Spain re-established their two-goal advantage less than 60 seconds later when David Alegre capitalised on a defensive mistake to leave Beltran with a simple tap-in. The scoring was completed nine minutes from time thanks to yet another stunning penalty corner drag-flick from Pau Quemada, who found the top left corner to move level with Netherlands Jip Janssen on five goals at the top of the scoring charts.

“We struggled at the beginning at the match, but then we managed to score two goals and after that I think we could play our game”, said Player of the Match Beltran after the game. “We won, so we are really happy and looking forward to the next game.”

Saturday February 15

Nga Puna Wai Hockey Stadium – Christchurch (New Zealand)

Women’s result: New Zealand 3, USA 1 
Player of the Match: Rose Keddell

Men’s result: New Zealand 1, Spain 4
Player of the Match: Albert Beltran (Spain)

CENARD – Buenos Aires (Argentina) 

Men’s result: Argentina 2, Netherlands 2 – Netherlands win 3-2 in shoot-out 
Player of the Match: Mirco Pruijser (the Netherlands)

Women’s result: Argentina 2, Netherlands 0
Player of the Match: Agustina Albertarrio (Argentina)

Sunday 16 February

Nga Puna Wai Hockey Stadium – Christchurch (New Zealand) 

Women’s result: New Zealand 3, USA 1 
Player of the Match: Stacey Michelsen (New Zealand)

Men’s result: New Zealand 3, Spain 2
Player of the Match: Kane Russell (New Zealand)