Lausanne, Switzerland – Two nail-biting encounters provided the Bhubaneswar crowd with plenty of thrilling entertainment as men’s FIH Hockey Pro League action continued at the second mini-tournament of the season on Sunday.
India came from behind to draw with the table-topping Netherlands before beating them in the resulting shoot-out.
Earlier in the day, Spain staged a second-half fightback against Australia, but it was not enough to beat the Kookaburras who emerged as 4-3 winners.
(Men’s) Spain 3 – 4 Australia
Blake Govers celebrated his 150th cap for Australia in a riveting 4-3 win against Spain. The Australians dominated a first half in which both goalkeepers were called upon to make early saves. The Kookaburras eventually went ahead in the 9th minute, Luis Calzado saving a drag flick with his fully extended right foot only for Lachlan Sharp to find the net from the rebound. 10 minutes later, Jake Whetton tapped in from quick ball movement after the Spaniards were dispossessed inside their own 25-yard area, and Govers added a drag flick in the 25th minute for a 3-0 lead. The Aussies could have gone even further in front but missed two penalty corner opportunities in the 27th minute, Calzado saving one and the other clattering into the post. Marc Miralles then pulled one back for the Spaniards with a straight drag flick in the 29th minute and Australia led 3-1 at half-time.
A Spanish fightback in the third quarter saw debutant Nicolas Alvarez getting between the defenders to volley home for a 36th-minute field goal, and Pol Cabre Verdiell equalising from open play a minute later to set up a spectacular finish. Sharp kickstarted an incredible period of pressure for the Australians with a 52nd-minute tap-in after a series of fast passes in the circle, and Rafael Revilla had to make several excellent saves for Spain over the next five minutes to keep his team in the hunt. The final two minutes were all Spain and there was brief elation as they deflected one in on the final hooter, but it was disallowed for the ball into the circle being dangerous and the Kookaburras emerged as deserved winners.
The player of the match was awarded to Australia’s Jake Whetton who said: “It’s good to be playing international hockey again. We’ve had a little bit of a layoff, about five months for us, so it’s nice to be back here in India playing Pro League, and yes, a good way to start our campaign.”
(Men’s) India 2 – 2 Netherlands (SO: 4 – 2)
There were also celebrations for the hosts as Harmanpreet Singh played his 200th game for India in front of a vocal home crowd who witnessed a thrilling 4-2 shootout win over the Netherlands after the game ended 2-2 in regulation time. The Dutch started positively but they failed to convert chances against an Indian defence that is proving hard to break, and Maurits Visser was the busier of the goalkeepers in the first half. India opened the scoring after 13 minutes, Sukhjeet Singh unselfishly slipping the ball back to Hardik Singh who beat an unsighted Visser with a quickly taken shot. The Netherlands gained the upper hand towards the end of the half and Jip Janssen equalised for them on the stroke of half-time with a big drag flick.
Koen Bijen then put the Netherlands ahead with an incredible reflex goal off a penalty corner rebound in the 39th minute, and the teams went into the fourth quarter with the game still up for grabs. India applied immense pressure and although this exposed them at times, they reaped their reward in the 58th minute, Harmanpreet Singh bulleting his drag flick through the Dutch defences. PR Sreejesh had to make a last-minute save for India to take the game to a shootout, where he emerged as the hero with two excellent saves.
Player of the match went to India’s Hardik Singh who said: “I think we really played well and we just showed what Indian hockey is. We knew that we were going to take chances, we were going to make our PC execute well, and we have the best dragger in the world right now so we just took our chance.”
Top Scorer Armband
To celebrate the talented goal-scorers throughout the season the FIH has introduced the Top Scorer Armband, which is being worn by the leading goal-scorers in the men’s and women’s competitions in the current season, as a visual mark for the fans, and for the players to wear proudly, match after match.
Current Top Scorers:
Women – Yibbi Jansen (NED) (11 goals)
Men – Jip Janssen (NED) (4 goals)
To see the current standings in the FIH Hockey Pro League, click here.
FIH Hockey Pro League – 11 February 2024
Kalinga Hockey Stadium, Bhubaneswar, India (IND)
Result: Match 9 (M)
Spain 3 – 4 Australia
Player of the match: Jake Whetton (AUS)
Umpires: Raghu Prasad (IND), Xiaoying Liu (CHN), Rawi Anbananthan (MAS-video)
Result: Match 10 (M)
India 2 – 2 Netherlands (SO: 4 – 2)
Player of the match: Hardik Singh (IND)
Umpires: James Unkles (AUS), Zeke Newman (AUS), Rawi Anbananthan (MAS-video)