FIH Pro League 2020, New Zealand vs Argentina: It was striker Olivia Merry’s day as she not only claimed her second four-goal haul of the FIH Hockey Pro League season in a superb 5-3 victory over Argentina but also helped the Black Sticks move back up to the second spot in the standings, forcing Las Leonas down to the third position.
Merry – who earlier this year scored all of her team’s goals in a 4-1 win against Belgium – was in irresistible form from the outset, scoring a remarkable 13-minute hat-trick to give New Zealand a stunning 3-0 lead over the Pan American champions at the end of the first quarter.
Argentina live-wire Maria Granatto dragged her team back into the contest with goals either side of half time before Hope Ralph put the Black Sticks into a 4-2 lead early in the fourth quarter, touching home Merry’s goal-bound shot from close range.
Las Leonas responded immediately when Agustina Gorzelany netted from the penalty spot, but it was Merry who would have the last word in this contest, tapping home the decisive goal six minutes from time to give the in-form, confident New Zealanders an excellent win against their higher-ranked opponent.
“It was pretty disappointing to come away with a shoot-out loss on Friday night, as we thought we played really well in patches and we had to put in a full 60-minute performance tonight”, said Player of the Match Merry, who top-scored in the 2019 edition of the Pro League with 15 goals and already has ten to her name in this edition, five more than any other player.
“I don’t know if we did put in a full 60 minutes as we let Argentina back into the game in the third quarter, so there is a lot for us to tidy up before we head to Europe in a couple of days.”
Earlier, Maico Casella scored the winner as Argentina’s men earned a 3-2 victory over the Black Sticks to climb up to fifth in the FIH Hockey Pro League table, level on eight points with their hosts but ahead on goal difference.
Los Leones, who fell to a 5-3 defeat in the first meeting between the two teams on Friday (28 March), edged ahead in the fifth minute when Jose Tolini slammed home a penalty corner before New Zealand’s Sam Lane restored parity with a penalty corner of his own in the second quarter.
The visitors took complete control of the contest in the third quarter, with Player of the Match Ignacio Ortiz and Maico Casella both scoring wonderful field goals as Argentina established a 3-1 lead. New Zealand’s Lane struck again – this time from open play – with 11 minutes remaining, but Argentina’s defense held firm to seal the victory.
“It was a tough match”, said Argentina’s Ignacio Ortiz, who was pleased with the way his team responded to Friday’s defeat against the Black Sticks. “We had to be very focussed on the match, but we talked to the coach and did that today.
March 1, 2020 – Nga Puna Wai Hockey Stadium, Christchurch (New Zealand)
Men’s result: New Zealand 2, Argentina 3
Player of the Match: Ignacio Ortiz (Argentina)
Women’s result: New Zealand 5, Argentina 3
Player of the Match: Olivia Merry (New Zealand)