Match Day 11 of the FIH Pro League featured two matches in New Zealand and one in Spain, with Germany’s international women’s and men’s teams claiming victories over the Black Sticks in Christchurch while Spain men fought back from 3-0 down to claim a shoot-out triumph over the Netherlands in Valencia.
The day’s action began at the Naga Puna Wai Hockey Stadium in Christchurch as New Zealand hosted the international teams of Germany. The women’s teams were first in action, with Commonwealth Games gold medallists New Zealand looking to build on last weekend’s outstanding 5-1 win over Olympic champions Great Britain.
The Black Sticks (FIH World Ranking: 6) made the perfect start when Amy Robinson opened the scoring with a tap-in inside the first minute after Germany lost possession in their own territory, but it was Die Danas (WR:5) who dominated the latter stages of the opening quarter before turning the contest on its head in the second period. Brilliant Germany forward Charlotte Stapenhorst levelled the scores with a classy flicked finish over the shoulder of onrushing Black Sticks goalkeeper Sally Rutherford before Pia Maertens forced home a close range penalty corner after the initial strike was blocked on the goal-line.
Germany were well worth their lead at half time but found themselves under pressure from the determined hosts for much of the third quarter. However, the Europeans – who fell to a narrow shoot-out defeat against Australia last weekend in Hobart – weathered the storm and added to their lead through Hannah Gablac, who crashed home a penalty corner rebound following a solid save from replacement Black Sticks goalkeeper Grace O’Hanlon.
Influential midfielder Stacey Michelsen, who returned to action after missing last weekend’s matches through injury, had New Zealand’s best chance in the final quarter when she crashed a shot into the pads of Germany goalkeeper Nathalie Kubalski. However, it was Germany who emerged as deserving 3-1 winners away from home to climb up to fourth in the FIH Pro League table with 66.7 percent. To view the current standings in the women’s FIH Pro League table, please click here.
“It was a quick start from New Zealand, but we got back into the game really quickly”, said Player of the Charlotte Stapenhorst of Germany. “We did our job when we were defending, we got our chances and luckily we scored from them. We are going to Argentina now, leaving tomorrow with a long flight, so we need to make sure that we prepare really well and hope that the crowd is as good here.”
The meeting between the two nations’ men’s teams was even in the opening quarter, with both sides guilty of making errors in the early battle for on-pitch supremacy. Germany (WR:6) midfielder Mats Grambusch flashed a backhand shot wide of the target late in an opening period short on scoring opportunities, with New Zealand (WR:8) goalkeeper Richard Joyce made a double save from a Germany penalty corner towards the end of the second quarter.
Having enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the first two quarters, Germany took complete control in a third period in which they opened up a 2-0 lead. Marco Miltkau showed his striker’s instinct with a close range finish after a brilliant save from New Zealand’s replacement goalkeeper George Enersen, before Niklas Wellen slapped home a second from a perfectly executed penalty corner routine.
Black Sticks captain Blair Tarrant scored a rare goal when he finished off a fine passing move to reduce the deficit at the start of the fourth quarter. However, a moment of brilliance from Florian Fuchs sealed a 3-1 triumph for Germany, evading numerous tackles on a mazy run before setting up the simplest of finishes for Miltkau to score his second of the match.
“We are very happy to get our first win in this competition”, said Player of the Match Mathias Müller of Germany. “We had a really bad third quarter against Australia [last week], so we had to really focus on the third quarter in this game.”
New Zealand captain Blair Tarrant said: “It was nice to get a goal, but unfortunately we were not good enough today. I think it is just about being clinical at both ends and we need to improve in those areas.”
The FIH Pro League action moved from New Zealand to Spain for the day’s final game, as a packed Estadio Betero in Valencia played host to the men of Spain (WR:9) and Netherlands (WR:3). The Dutch – back on European soil after a successful trip to Oceania where they beat New Zealand and claimed a shoot-out victory over Australia – opened up a 2-0 advantage in a fast-paced, end-to-end first quarter. Thierry Brinkman was on hand to finish off some fine work from Terrance Pieters before Mirco Pruijser smashed home an opportunistic effort on his backhand after the Red Sticks defence were caught in possession.
The Oranje continued to look the more dangerous team throughout the second and third quarters, with their hard work eventually being rewarded when Jelle Galema guided a perfect deflection past Spain goalkeeper Quico Cortes to put the World Cup finalists 3-0 up. It was a goal that sparked a reaction from Spain, with Xavi Lleonart hitting the post before veteran attacker Pau Quemada pulled a goal back with a close range strike just before the end of the third quarter.
Spanish hopes of a comeback further increased with nine minutes remaining thanks to Albert Beltran, who produced a stunning deflection into the roof of the Dutch goal to make it 3-2 and set up a thrilling finish. The Red Sticks won a trio of penalty corners at the end of the game, the third of which was fired home by Marc Serrahima to tie the match at 3-3 and force a shoot-out in dramatic fashion.
Serrahima’s late equaliser had guaranteed Spain at least one point from the contest, but things were to get even better for the home favourites thanks largely to shot-stopper Cortes, who did enough to stop Pruijser, Brinkman and Pieters as the Red Sticks triumphed 3-1 in the shoot-out to claim a valuable bonus point.
“It was an amazing game”, said Man of the Match Alvaro Iglesias of Spain. “The first half was 100 percent for them [Netherlands], they had a lot of chances and we had a few, but we were not that sharp. In the second half we made our chances, we fought and finally we made it 3-3 and beat them in the shoot-outs.”
Despite missing out on the bonus point, the Netherlands remain third in the men’s FIH Pro League standings, with Germany in fourth, Spain in sixth and New Zealand in seventh position. To view the current standings, please click here.