World Cup silver medalists the Netherlands survived a scare from hosts New Zealand before coming out 4-3 winners in their opening FIH Pro League match at North Harbour Hockey Stadium in Auckland.
The Netherlands currently ranked 3rd were attacking from the outset and shocked the Black Sticks with a 3-0 lead in the opening quarter to leave the home crowd stunned.
First, it was Thierry Brinkman who swooped from close to pierce the ball between the legs of New Zealand shot-stopper George Enersen in the 9th minute before Jonas de Geus packed up a potent backhand against the backboard to make it 2-0. And in the 14th minute, it was a penalty corner drag-flick from Jip Janssen left the Black Sticks in disarray.
Within the opening minute of the second period, Hugo Inglis reduced the deficit with a fine solo goal carving his way through the Dutch defense before lifting the ball over the onrushing Sam van der Ven to give his team a bit of traction in the match. The goal proved to be a catalyst as it lifted the morale of the players on the field and fans in the Stadium. The Black Sticks found the net twice in the last 3 minutes of the period, with Inglis scoring his 2nd before Kane Russell’s brutal, low penalty corner drag-flick leveled the contest at 3-3 and brought an exhilarating first half to an end.
The third quarter saw the Netherlands up the ante with more circle entries as well as more shots on the goal and it was the Netherlands who produced the decisive moment in the match. Thierry Brinkman, who was the man of the match as well, let loose a dazzling backhand high into the New Zealand net from a tight angle to put the Netherlands back in front at 4-3.
The 4th quarter saw nervy scenes on the field as Black Stick’s Mackenzie Wilcox and de Geus came to blows with each other and were given ten-minute yellow card suspensions, while goalkeepers Enersen and Van der Ven both made brilliant saves to keep their teams in the hunt.
But in the end, it was Thierry Brinkman’s goal at the 44th minute that proved to be the difference.
About the Author
Suposh Sharma, keenly follows Hockey, Athletics, and other Olympic sports. He also has a penchant for writing humour and is an avid traveller