FIH Pro League 2020, New Zealand vs Argentina: A thrilling 5-3 win for the hosts New Zealand over the defending Olympic champions Argentina in men’s section of the FIH Pro League 2020 had the local crowd roaring with excitement as big hockey returned to Christchurch on Friday. The hosts’ women, however, could not sustain the tempo as it lost in the penalty shoot out to the visiting Argentina women’s team after a 1-1 draw in the regulation period.
The New Zealand versus Argentina men’s match was an out-and-out thriller, with the home favorites earning a second successive FIH Hockey Pro League victory to add to its recent triumph against Spain, which was its first-ever outright win since the launch of the competition in January 2019.
The result sees the Black Sticks climb up to the fifth spot in the table with Los Leones in the eighth position.
New Zealand established 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 leads thanks to strikes from Sam Lane, Dylan Thomas, and Jared Panchia, with the reigning Olympic champions – captained by Pedro Ibarra, who today made his 300th senior international appearance – hitting back on each occasion through Maico Casella and Jose Tolini (2) to leave the scores locked at 3-3 with eleven minutes remaining.
Much to the delight of the home fans, the Black Sticks eventually pulled clear when a Cory Bennett penalty corner and an open play effort from Dominic Neuman established an unassailable 5-3 lead, with New Zealand goalkeeper Leon Hayward being named Player of the Match thanks to a string of outstanding saves in sealing the triumph.
“It was nice to get five goals against a quality opponent”, said Black Sticks head coach Darren Smith. “We defended well and were able to contain their dangerous strike forwards. Our strike line was energetic and played with genuine pace as they put together a strong performance”.
Having witnessed their men’s team earn a famous victory over the Rio 2016 Olympic gold medalists, New Zealand’s women knew that a glorious double over the Pan American giants was a distinct possibility. However, despite missing numerous influential players including goalkeeper Belen Succi and attacking stars Carla Rebecchi and Delfina Merino, it was the Argentineans who emerged with the biggest share of the points, climbing up to second place in the FIH Hockey Pro League table, one place above New Zealand.
The Black Sticks started well and took the lead early in the second quarter when 19-year-old Hope Ralph scored from open play. However, Ralph’s strike was canceled out mid-way through the third period by Player of the Match Agustina Albertarrio, who found the target with a deflected effort. With no further goals, a shoot-out was required to determine the bonus point. It was the visitors who claimed the additional point, with Julieta Jankunas, Victoria Miranda and Priscilla Jardel all on target as Las Leonas emerged 3-1 winners in the one-on-ones, with Sam Charlton the sole scorer for New Zealand.
Speaking after the game, Agustina Albertarrio said: “It was a very difficult match. New Zealand is a really good team. We are happy we won the shoot-out, but we have to see the images of the match to review the things that we did wrong and think about the [next] match.”
FIH Hockey Pro League
Friday 28 February 2020 – Nga Puna Wai Hockey Stadium, Christchurch (New Zealand)
Men’s result: New Zealand 5, Argentina 3
Player of the Match: Leon Hayward (goalkeeper – New Zealand)
Women’s result: New Zealand 1, Argentina 1 and 1-3 After Shoot-Out
Player of the Match: Agustina Albertarrio (Argentina)