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The Netherlands and Argentina walk away with men, women titles

Argentina became the first women’s team to go undefeated in Pro League play after its  3-2 win over India in its last game.

The Netherlands rounded off its FIH Pro League engagements in the men’s section with a clinical 2-1 win over Olympic bronze medallist India to emerge as undisputed leader of this elite tournament.

While the Netherlands won the men’s title, the honour of staying at top in the women’s section went to the South American power house of hockey, Argentina.

Argentina became the first women’s team to go undefeated in Pro League play after its  3-2 win over India in its last game.

Incidentally, both the Netherlands and Argentina had  wins against Indian teams in their last games of the current edition of the FIH Pro League to emerge champions.

Meanwhile, the USA showed its constant improvement with a 2-1 win over China, incidentally its first win in the season. The Belgian women also dropped England 4-1 to overcome the previous day’s loss.

Olympic champions Belgium had a convincing 5-0 win over England  to finish second while India ended third in the men’s section.

The United States women stormed back from a day ago to take the game 2-1 over China and earn its first win of the 2021-22 FIH Pro League. The game was a milestone for umpire Céline Martin-Schmets, of Belgium, who was awarded her Golden Whistle after the match for her 100th international match.

Struggling to beat Kelsey Bing, in goal for the USA, it took a deflection off defender Jillian Wolgemuth for China to get on the board. Credit to Zhang Ying as her powerful flick made it difficult to control and China took the 1-0 lead in just the sixth minute of play.

On USA’s first attack it was Lauren Moyer who charged her way through. Chasing from behind, captain Li Jiaqi made a desperate attempt, but her stick tackle was penalized and the Americans were awarded a penalty stroke. Ashley Hoffman finished from the spot to tie the game before the end of the first quarter.

The USA came out strong in the second half. Alexandra Hammel’s slap from the top of the circle lifted the USA 2-1 on a penalty corner and the momentum kept on rolling for the Americans.

USA striker Lauren Moyer, named Player of the Match commented after the game: ‘We have been waiting for a long time for a win in this league. We’ve been working really hard and sticking to the process. China is a great opponent, ranked higher than us and really disciplined in what they do. I think we can walk away from this with a lot of learning but heads are held high for the win.’

 The Belgian Red Panthers were able to find redemption after yesterday’s loss, scoring a goal in each quarter to put away England 4-1 in their second-match of the weekend. Judith Vandermeiren crafted the opening goal, heading into the left side of the circle before teammate  Stephanie vanden Borre gave the final touch to make it 1-0 for Belgium.

In the second quarter, a turnover from Giselle Ansley gave Alix Gerniers the ball in a danger zone. Gerniers charged the England circle and a sloppy bit of defence opened up space for Justine Rasir to slap the ball high into the net for the 2-0 Belgian lead.

With much renewed energy and composure, Belgium was also rewarded for its execution on set pieces. Vanden Borre’s flick beat Maddie Hinch high, stick side in the 33rd minute and things just couldn’t seem to go right for England.

England was able to find its legs and get on the board. Clever running from Sophie Hamilton on the left baseline created space for her to smash a ball across the Belgian goal. Tessa Howard was there to make the deflection to get England within two.

Rasir volleyed in a fourth goal, her second of the game, in the 55th minute to make it 4-1 and give Belgium the well-earned three points on the day.

Vanden Borre, named Player of the Match  commented after the game: ‘We had a great start just like yesterday and we had some moments we lacked a bit, when we had two cards, but in the end we won 4-1 so we are really happy with the three points. I think yesterday in the second half we lacked a lot of energy and that was a focus point for us today and that was the difference.’

It was a convincing 5-0 victory for the Belgian men over England to give the teams a split weekend. England knew it needed a win today to push for the top of the standings and played without a goalkeeper in the final minutes of the game.

Belgium’s opening goal came off a scramble on a penalty corner. Alexander Hendrickx’s flick was saved by Oliver Payne but the rebound was collected by the experienced hands of John-John Domen and recycled back towards goal for Nicolas de Kerpel to tap in.

England looked a little flat as Belgium continued to generate attacks. Hendrickx rang the post on another penalty corner flick but Arthur de Sloover cradled the rebound and earned a blast from the top of the circle. The ball ricocheted off the defensive stick of Stuart Rushmere and in for a 2-0 Belgium lead.

England, desperate to press for a comeback, pulled its keeper but  gave up opportunities more than generated them. Hendrickx put in two penalty corner flicks in the final three minutes of the game as England attempted to defend with only five field players in goal.

Nicoals de Kerpel blasted a back-hand shot from a tight angle and with an unguarded net made the score line 5-0 for Belgium.

Player of the Match Victor Wegnez of Belgium said after the match: ‘I think we played better than yesterday and since the beginning of the Pro League we have always played the second match much better. That was the case today. We were a bit lucky, we scored three goals when they had no goalie so I think the result was not really describing the game. It was a really close game until the last five minutes. It’s still 5-0 against England in England which is hard to get that result so we are happy to close the Pro League this way.’

Results: Women

China 1, USA 2

Player of the Match: Lauren Moyer (USA)

 India 2, Argentina 3

Player of the Match: Eugenia Trinchinetti (Argentina)

England 1, Belgium 4

Player of the Match: Stephanie vanden Borre (BEL)

Men

Netherlands 2, India 1

Player of the Match: Lars Balk (the Netherlands)

 England 0, Belgium 5

Player of the Match: Victor Wegnez (Belgium)

 

Prabhjot Singh

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