Netherlands take control against Great Britain in Eindhoven

A combinaiton of goals from Frederique Matla and Marijne Veen and a highly successful press were enough to give the Netherlands their ninth victory in the FIH Pro League and move them even closer to securing a place in the FIH Pro League Grand Finals at the end of June.

The result leaves the Netherlands at the top of the FIH Pro League table with an 88.89% win rate. Great Britain remain in seventh place, with a win rate of 30.56%, ahead of China, who play tomorrow (2 June) and USA.

To see the current women’s FIH Pro League standings, click here.

A full house of predominantly orange-clad fans were rocking the stadium in Eindhoven as Great Britain (FIH World Ranking:2) stepped up to take on the might of a full strength Netherlands (WR:1) team.

Alyson Annan and her team were looking for a ninth win in the FIH Pro League to move them a step nearer to qualifying for the FIH Pro League Grand Final in Amstelveen at the end of the month. Before the match was even underway, her words would have sent a shudder through the Great Britain supporters. “This is the first time we have had every player available for the Pro League, so I am very excited about what the squad can achieve today and what this summer holds for us,” said the Head Coach.

EINDHOVEN – FIH Pro League Netherlands v Great Britain (RR) Picture: Emily Defroand WORLDSPORTPICS COPYRIGHT FRANK UIJLENBROEK

Great Britain’s Head Coach Mark Hager said his team had been through some “soul searching” after their 4-1 defeat at the hands of Belgium earlier in the week and they would be looking to put in a good performance against the world number one side. But, he conceded, this was going to be a very tough match for a team that has shown inconsistent form over the course of the competition – with just two wins from 11 matches.

That said it was Great Britain who started slightly the stronger, winning the first penalty corner of the match. The shot eluded Anne Veenendaal in the Dutch goal but the ball was blocked on the line by Marloes Keetels.

That was the wake up call that Netherlands needed and with just three minutes left before the quarter break, Player of the Match Frederique Matla put her side ahead after she latched onto a cross from Malou Pheninckx and slotted the ball neatly into the corner of Sabbie Heesh’s goal.

While the Netherlands have been firing in numerous goals over the course of their Pro League campaign, a less commented upon but equally important factor to their success has been their disciplined defence and it was on full display here. Despite Great Britain having a good amount of possession, the wall of orange shirts meant the visiting side had no forward options against the press.

The second goal for the Netherlands came off the back of that solid defence. A steal in midfield saw Margot van Geffen speed down the right-side of the pitch. Van Geffen’s cross hit a Great Britain foot and the ball sprang up for Marijn Veen to slap home.

Eindhoven, Nederland – Engeland, Hockey, Dames, FIH Pro League, FIH Pro-League, Seizoen 2018-2019, 01-06-2019, Nederland – Engeland 2-0, Margot Van Geffen (Ned) en Suzy Petty (Eng)

Caia van Maasakker nearly made it three as her trade-mark drag flick penalty corner was heading goalwards. Giselle Ansley was on hand to bat the ball off the goal-line, keeping the score to 2-0 going into the break.

“I was happy with how we played but we were punished for two defensive errors. If we can keep those to a minimum then we can stay in this game,” was Hager’s verdict at half-time.

The second half saw the game pattern continue in the same vein. Great Britain had a greater share of possession but were unable to do anything meaningful with it. The Dutch in comparison, worked to make sure every turnover resulted in a shot at goal.

Matla nearly doubled her tally as she burst into the Great Britain circle but fired wide and seconds later Xan de Waard cruised into the circle with effortless guile, displaying a range of 3D skills before winning her side a penalty corner, that ultimately yielded no reward.

The third quarter saw no further goals although Tessa Howard came close to halving the deficit when she fired a speculative backhand at Veenendaal’s goal. The Netherland’s keeper was up to the challenge and palmed it to safety.

The final quarter saw the world number one side up the pressure from the first whistle. Lidewij Welten, who had a quiet game by her own standards, wove a web around the Great Britain defence but her shot flew just wide. Seconds earlier and Lauren Stam had also been creating havoc in the circle but her ingenuity on the ball also came to nothing.

Unusually for the Netherlands, the penalty corner routines were not firing. A total of seven penalty corners were won but neither the fire power of van Maasakker or the many variations available to Annan’s team yielded any goals.

With five minutes left, Hager removed his goalkeeper. Great Britain’s attacking power was further enhanced when Maria Verschoor was sent from the field for five minutes for a clumsy tackle. The teams set up for a very different game – Netherlands looking to defend in numbers and Great Britain seeking that all-important breakthrough.

It is perhaps a measure of where these two teams currently stand that the Netherlands saw out the passage of play with some disciplined defence and passing play, while Great Britain lost possession too early and too easily as they pushed for a goal.

“Our performance today was better than against Belgium,” said captain of Great Britain Hollie Pearne-Webb. “Two mistakes really cost us but it was a much better performance than against Belgium. We can’t afford to make those mistakes but we will learn from that again.”

Frederique Matla said: “It was an exciting game and good to get back together as a squad, after we have all been playing each other in club hockey. We came together very well. We had a new press and that was what we were getting used to. That went well but we must analyse it and get better.”

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