Pro League: Spain Go 7 Points Cleat at the Top

Red Sticks do the double over Kookaburras while Hockeyroos edge past United Eagles 

Action continued from the FIH Hockey Pro League 2022/23 mini-tournament in Hobart as Spain continued their red hot form, relying on their terrific defence to get the better of the hosts and stretching their lead on the top of the table to 7 points! In the women’s competition hosts Australia took on USA in another riveting match that produced plenty of offensive opportunities for two evenly matched sides, but a late goal by Amy Lawton gave the hosts a win and all 3 points. 

Men’s – Australia vs Spain 1-3

Spain came into the game on the back of 2 consecutive wins building a 4 point lead at the top of the table, but were coming up against Australia, who were building some momentum, having beaten Argentina for their first win of the season. The first quarter was evenly contested with teams trading possession and territory throughout. Towards the end of the quarter Spain finally capitalised on their momentum, opening the scoring through Marc Escudé who latched on to a great long pass by Marc Reyne and unleashed a vicious shot on target. Australia were dominant in attack in the second quarter in search of an equaliser, but Spain’s deep defence held strong, with Adrian Rafi in particular having an outstanding game in the goal. 

The third quarter followed a similar pattern with Australia mounting the pressure but continued to be frustrated by the Spanish defence, this time by Luis Calzado, who was in goal in the second half in place of Adrian Rafi. With frustrations mounting, the flow of the game started to suffer, and with scuffles breaking out in the middle of the field both teams were on the receiving end of a green card and yellow card each. Spain capitalised on the open spaces available with the teams reduced to 10 players to score twice in the final minutes of the 3rd quarter through Pere Amat and Alvaro Iglesias. Australia finally opened their account in the 51st minute as a penalty corner flick by Zalewski hit the Spanish defender’s foot on the line giving them a penalty stroke. Govers confidently dispatched the stroke and Australia looked to mount an improbable comeback. But Spain’s defence kept its upper hand, with Calzado once again pulling off a stunning double save from Govers and Craig off a penalty corner in the 55th minute, winning the game and earning three points for Spain. 

Adrian Rafi was awarded player of the match and said: “Great win for us. We are really enjoying our hockey at the moment and playing excellent defence, winning 3 games in a row. Hopefully we can get another win tomorrow and complete a perfect mini-tournament.”

Women’s – Australia vs USA 2-1 

Australia had the perfect start to the game scoring in the 4th minute through a penalty corner by Claire Colwill that snuck by the left foot of Kelsey Bing who would’ve hoped to have done better with it. Rosie Malone created another great chance for Australia as she cut in from the left baseline and sent a pass across the goal where Tonkin was completely unmarked, but Bing got a slight deflection on the ball before it could reach Tonkin and that disturbed her shot attempt, keeping the lead down to one goal. USA pushed high in their press in their second quarter and forced a horror turnover as a back pass landed straight to Saane Caarls in the penalty spot and a stick tackle before she could take the shot, gave USA a penalty stroke that was dispatched by Ashley Hoffman. 

Australia and USA both traded possession and territory in the third quarter but clear chances were not easily available. Australia came the closest from a penalty corner in the 43rd minute as a high and powerful drag flick by Renee Taylor had Kelsey Bing worried, but sailed just wide to the right of the goal. USA once again gained the upper hand in the final quarter, winning two penalty corners in 2 minutes. They opted for a variation on the first one, sending the ball towards the right for a deflection, but the attempt was saved by Power on the goal line. The second flick went left in search of a deflection but sailed wide. With 8 minutes left in the game USA went down to 10 players with Leah Crouse receiving a yellow card and the momentum swung in favour of Australia again. Australia finally made the possession count, as a cross coming in from the right made it all the way to Amy Lawton on the left with Bing on the floor attempting to stop the cross on the front post, allowing Lawton to pick a spot and score with relative ease. 

Rosie Malone was awarded player of the match and said: “It was such a great game, we knew whoever would score the goal in the final quarter could take the win and we got the momentum and did just that.”

FIH Pro League – 4 March 2023

Tasmania Hockey Center, Hobart (AUS)

Result: Men’s Match 23

Australia 1-3 Spain

Player of the Game: Adrian Rafi (ESP)

Umpires: Raghu Prasad (IND), David Tomlinson (NZL), Cookie Tan (SGP-video)

Result: Women’s Match 29

Australia 2-1 USA

Player of the Game: Rosie Malone (AUS)

Umpires: Javed Sheikh (IND), Rachel Williams (ENG), Raghu Prasad (IND-video)

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