Penalty corner specialist Jip Janssen helped the Dutch national team to victory over Spain on Friday morning in Valencia (3-4) in the FIH Pro League.
With his first hat trick in Orange, Janssen single-handedly silenced the 1800 children in Estadio Betero.
The three-points were a huge boost for the team, with the first two games of the Pro League against India not going to plan for the Netherlands. Following a fractured foot sustained on club duty with Kampong, National coach Max Caldas was able to recall Sander de Wijn for the first time since the battle for bronze at the European Championships in Antwerp, last summer.
Following the injury, De Wijn vowed never to run a corner again. While many might have thought that he would go back on his words once on the field, the Netherlands seems to have to do it (at least for the time being) without its best runner. Without De Wijn in his usual place, with a mask on the goal line, the Dutch gave up three penalty corner goals. Josep Romeu with a hattrick and twice goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak looked extreamly unhappy with the defence around him. Spain’s first, a slow hit to the stick side of Blaak, the second goal (2-2) disappeared between his legs against the board.
Eyes on De Wijn
De Wijn played a great game against Spain. He limited himself primarily to defending, but that is entirely understandable after an absence of four months. The big problem, Spain was not comparable to the team that had hurt the Netherlands so much in the semifinals at the European Championships. Coach Frederic Soyez’s side went down in Antwerp like a bull fighting for its life in the Plaza de Toros. On Friday-morning in Estadio Betero, that competitiveness and controlled aggression was missing, the team, in particular in the last quarter, looked like a bunch of little lambs.
That does not alter the fact that the Netherlands team showed great play at times and started the game furiously. Head Coach Max Caldas demanded his team immediately put a lot of pressure on the Spaniards to make playing impossible. That quickly resulted in the goal they wanted. Thijs van Dam, who also made an impression in India with a few nice runs, gave the Spaniards no options but to concede a corner. Janssen immediately showed what he is capable of, flicking into the top corner, out of reach of goalkeeper Mario Garin: 0-1.
A few minutes later, a penalty corner from Spain went in. With Lars Balk as the first runner, Josep Romeu pushed the ball low and not too hard on the stick side of Pirmin Blaak, who had no answer: 1-1.
Shortly before the end of the first quarter, the Netherlands again took the lead with an apparently ‘childishly simple goal’. Jonas de Geus got the ball on the left, turned from his backhand to his forehand striking low to the far corner: 1-2.
In the second quarter, the teams kept each other well balanced, although it was the Netherlands that had the best chances. A shot from Jelle Galema was saved, while Lars Balk hit the target just shortly. On the other hand, the Dutch defence barely got into trouble, although Joep de Mol, with sloppy loss of the ball, must have occasionally caused heart failure.
In the third quarter, the Dutch got the second penalty corner. Again it was Janssen who was allowed to shoot, but this time he threw the ball over the goal. The Netherlands pushed more and put pressure on the Spaniards. It seemed to be waiting for the Orange blow, but instead, Romeu scored 2-2 through Blaak’s legs.
For a moment, a doom scenario again threatened the Dutch, which yearned for a series of nice matches and victories. Then there was Janssen, who now also seems to be increasingly able to compete internationally with the penalty corner stars. Twice he rammed the ball into the goal. With 2-4, the world suddenly looked different, and it became silent in the stadium, which was once again packed with school children.
Again those kids were allowed to cheer, after Romeu, like Janssen, threw his third corner into the goal. This time the ball went high and out of reach of Blaak: 3-4. With a second on the clock, the Spanish schoolchildren cheered once again thinking their side had sent the game to a shootout, but with Spain’s shot coming from outside the circle, the Netherlands chalked up their first win of the ProLeague season.