The Orange Ladies suffered the first defeat of the European Championship in Hamburg in a fascinating hockey battle with Germany. In an open duel plenty of opportunities, technical highlights and hard fouls, the team of national coach Kristiaan Timman was left behind 2-4, after a 2-0 lead.
For the first time since the 2018 World Cup, the two best indoor teams in the world faced each other again. Despite this, the beautiful Sporthalle Hamburg was not even half full for this hall smasher.
The spectators present, including a large part from the Netherlands, saw the Orange start flashy and fierce. Laura van Heugten fired on keeper Nathalie Kubalski’s goal from the right in the second minute. Her first attempt was blocked, but in the second instance it was a hit: 1-0, her first goal at this European Championship.
The Orange then kept control and had chances to double the margin through Mabel Brands and Noor de Baat (penalty corner). The Orange’s second goal then came: a penalty corner decorated by Elin van Erk was used by Brands, who scored from the head circle for the second time this tournament: 2-0.
That 2-0 naturally provoked a reaction from the German team, which was also very noticeable verbally and physically. It did not miss its effect: in the last four minutes of the first half, Cecile Pieper (released in the center) and Pia Maertens (nice goal from the left) drew the score: 2-2. In the meantime, Germany had even missed a penalty after keeper Alexandra Heerbaart had floored Lisa Altenburg: Viktoria Huse’s shot hit the post.
Open hockey fight
After the break, the wonderful hockey fight took shape. It rained opportunities on both sides, much more than in the first three games of the Orange combined. Two players claimed the leading role in this: on the German side, Maertens came close to scoring twice (one shot hit the post), on the Orange side, Donja Zwinkels excelled.
With a number of inimitable solos, the 33-year-old indoor diva slalomed through the German rearguard a few times. Her attempts on goal, including an intelligent tip-in, unfortunately failed to hit. Her great assist to Van Erk also failed to yield a hit, thanks to an excellent save by Kubalski.
Where the goal attempts by the Orange went unrewarded, Maertens did have success for Germany in the fourth quarter. On the left in the circle she outwitted Heerbaart again, her second goal of the match, 2-3. Not much later, Maertens, steaming up again at the left bar, gave Anne Schröder an unmissable cross: 2-4, a quickly played counter.
Sad for Heerbaart, who just kept the Orange going with her saves in the minutes before. The SCHC goalie had more ball contacts and actions than in her previous two matches at this European Championship. The Orange also had chances in the remainder of the fourth quarter, but keeper Kubalski always stood in the way of goal attempts by Zwinkels, De Baat and Brands.
With three minutes left on the clock, Heerbaart made way for an extra field player in the hope of being able to narrow the margin. Remarkably enough, the goalkeeper of the German team also went to the side after that. The tactical sliding game, however, did not change the score: 2-4.
It means the first loss for the Orange at this European Championship. It is very likely that both teams will meet again tomorrow, in the final for European gold in which Germany has already secured a place. Later today, the Orange must secure its place in the final in the last group match against Ukraine.