FIH Hockey Pro League: Dutch withstand Spanish comeback as Kookaburras down Ireland

February 22, 2024
The Netherlands and Australia, the top two sides in the men’s standings in this cluster of the FIH Hockey Pro League,

Rourkela (Odisha), Feb 22 (IANS) The Netherlands and Australia, the top two sides in the men’s standings in this cluster of the FIH Hockey Pro League, recorded contrasting wins at the Birsa Munda International Stadium in Rourkela on Thursday. The table-topping Dutch side saw off a late comeback from Spain to claim a 4-3 victory after dominating much of the encounter while Australia extended their winning record even further with a 4-1 victory over Ireland.

Australia took the field first and found the going easy against Ireland. The Kookaburras took a long time to find their accuracy but ultimately emerged as comfortable 4-1 winners over an always-improving Ireland.

The first half was goalless, with the Irish making some positive forays into the Australian circle without really getting off a shot. Meanwhile, the Australians were uncharacteristically off target from their numerous opportunities. Ultimately it was the Irish defence with a lively James Milliken in goal that kept the scores locked at 0-0 at half-time.

The Kookaburras earned four early penalty corners in a dominant second half, and it was off their ninth of the match in the 33rd minute that Blake Govers finally beat Milliken with a brilliant drag flick. Nathan Ephraums extended the lead in the 40th, cleaning up the scraps after a saved penalty corner variation.

Ireland showed plenty of fight and Shane O’Donoghue scored from a drag flick in the 44th minute to keep them in contention heading into the final quarter.

But the Australians took control and Govers completed his third brace in three matches with another powerful drag flick in the 52nd minute. Jack Welch then wrapped up the scoring from a loose ball that popped into his arc off two Irish defenders four minutes later.

The Netherlands survived a late Spanish comeback in an engaging 4-3 contest. Both teams played positive hockey in an exciting opening quarter which resulted in a high pace and plenty of turnovers. Spain went ahead in the second minute when Lacalle Borja finished from the baseline after the Dutch were caught out by a long pass into the circle.

The Netherlands then responded through a Jip Janssen penalty stroke in the 11th minute. After taking more control through the second quarter, the Dutch were rewarded with a Thierry Brinkman deflection from open play in the 22nd minute, and they held a slender 2-1 lead at half-time.

The Netherlands had a great start to the second half, Janssen ripping a drag flick home in the 31st minute, and Guus Jansen scoring his first international goal from open play three minutes later.

They went on to dominate the quarter without finding the target again. The Dutch appeared to have the game wrapped up as the fourth quarter progressed, but two quick goals from the Red Sticks set up an exciting finish.

Pol Cabre Verdiell picked up a good deflection from a cross to the p-spot in the 51st minute, and José Basterra added a drag flick three minutes later. The Spanish had their tails up in the final five minutes but couldn’t find an equaliser from some half chances and the Dutch managed to hang on for the win.



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