Matla strike downs Argentina as Netherlands women secure first place finish

Frederique Matla’s ninth goal of the season gave reigning world champions the Netherlands a 2-1 victory over Argentina in front of a passion-fuelled capacity crowd at Utrecht’s SV Kampong on Thursday evening, a result which guarantees a first place finish for the Oranje in the league phase of the competition.

Argentina opened the scoring against the run of play when Micaela Retegui tapped home in the 22nd minute after some magical play from Maria Granatto, only for the Dutch to thrill the home crowd by scoring twice in the four minutes that immediately followed through Lidewij Welten and Matla. Defeat for Las Leonas – who came into the match as the only team capable of overtaking the Dutch at the top of the table – means that they are now guaranteed a second place finish, with Australia third and Germany fourth.

With the top four positions in the league phase now finalised, the semi-final fixtures for the FIH Pro League Grand Final – which takes place from 27-30 June at Amsterdam’s Wagener Stadium – have now been confirmed. Top of the table Netherlands will face fourth-placed Germany, while second-placed Argentina will play third-placed Australia. The timings for these fixtures will be confirmed in the coming days. To see the current women’s FIH Pro League standings, click here.

There was little to choose between the Netherlands (FIH World Ranking: 1) and Argentina (WR:4) in the opening stages, but the Dutch increased the pressure towards the end of the first quarter and looked the team most likely to open the scoring. Frederique Matla saw a shot flash wide of the left post while Argentina goalkeeper Belen Succi was called into action from two penalty corner situations, saving well to keep the score at 0-0 going into quarter time.

Whilst the world champions continued to look menacing early in the second period, it was in fact the Argentines who broke the deadlock through Micaela Retegui – daughter of Leonas head coach Carlos – who scored from close range after Maria Granatto brilliantly skipped between two Netherlands defenders before supplying a perfect pass across the face of goal. Argentina held the lead for just two minutes, with Caia van Maasakker providing the penalty corner assist for Lidewij Welten to guide into the goal at the right post in the 24th minute. Two minutes later the Dutch moved ahead when Matla applied the finishing touch to a superb team goal after Xan de Waard, Marloes Keetels and Maria Verschoor carved through the middle of Argentina’s midfield.

Argentina had good chances at the end of the second and start of the third quarters as Maria Granatto and Rosario Luchetti both went close, although it was the home favourites who remained in control going into the final quarter. Belen Succi kept her side in the contest with a superb diving save to deny a first time strike from the excellent Keetels, while Laurien Leurink almost added a third but failed to get a touch on Marijn Veen’s pass in front of goal. It mattered little, as the Netherlands made it a remarkable 14 wins from 15 FIH Pro League matches, and their 13th victory in succession.

Marloes Keetels, who was named Player of the Match, said: “Against Argentina, they attack then we attack, which is always fun playing but you know how good they are. When they attack they can be very dangerous. We love these games †, but they are not easy. We kept pushing, which I think was the key for us to winning this game.”

The final two days of the regular FIH Pro League season will take place this coming weekend. On Saturday (22 June), the Netherlands men welcome Australia to Amsterdam’s Wagener Stadium, while USA host Germany at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  The Netherlands women face Australia in Amsterdam on Sunday (23 June), a day that will also see double headers in Antwerp and London. Belgium’s men and women play Argentina at Antwerp’s Wilrijkse Plein while Great Britain’s men and women take on New Zealand in a groundbreaking and historic fixture at the Twickenham Stoop. To see a complete list of fixtures, click here.

Keep up to date with all the latest news on the FIH Pro League via the event website and through FIH social media channels – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

FIH Pro League – 20 June 2019

SV Kampong, Utrecht (NED)

Result: Women’s Match 68
Netherlands 2, Argentina 1
Player of the Match:
Marloes Keetels (NED)
Umpires: Laurine Delforge (BEL), Sarah Wilson (SCO) and Ben Goentgen (GER – video)

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