The Oranje-Rood suffered its first loss of points of the season on Saturday evening. The Eindhoven team lost the top match against Pinoké 2-1 on their own field, which is now single-handedly the leader in the Tulp Hoofdklasse Men.
It’s a bizarre hockey weekend. The ball rolls in the big league for four days in a row. A roller coaster with no less than 24 matches, with less than 48 hours of break for all teams. Among all that big league violence, one poster stood out. Indeed. The one in Eindhoven, among the only teams that had not yet lost any points in the first five rounds. The two who stood out in this early season.
And that is actually surprising.
Because the Oranje-Rood has not played a play-offs for five years. There were always ambitions, but the Eindhoven team fell short every season. Injuries, too tight a selection, defensive mistakes at the wrong times, and excuses were always in abundance. The conclusion was the same every year: ‘just not’.
This is of course different with Pinoké. The Steekneuzen’s second play-off participation resulted in one of the surprising national titles of recent big league years. And yet there was no guarantee that things would be this good at the start of this season. The Amsterdam team was missing two big stars from the championship year. Both Alexander Hendrickx and Miles Bukkens did not play for a second due to knee problems. Despite the injuries of both cornermen, Pinoké has successfully overcome every hurdle so far. Even the difficult home match on Thursday against Rotterdam (2-1 win), the first top match for the men this weekend.
The good news from the speaker
Things were far from easy in that second top match. Not for Pinoké and not for Oranje-Rood either. It was chess, waiting and lurking in the early stages when opportunities were scarce. Thibeau Stockbroekx had the best opportunity, but the home team’s striker hit wide.
OR was better and dominated thanks to the good New Zealander Sean Findlay, who played much more decisively than last season. However, it was Pinoké who had the biggest chance before the break. Joep Troost – the guests’ top scorer – delivered a razor-sharp cross to Florent Van Aubel, who tipped the ball onto the post from close range. In the afterthought, goalie Pirmin Blaak kept the Oranje-Rood on its feet.
It would also have been a great honor for Pinoké, who otherwise showed little offensively. OR had a chance just before the break, but Sam Lane – accurate in every match until this match – pushed wide. The only really good news was received by the home crowd at halftime. It was the announcement from the cheerful speaker of the home club, who announced with heart and soul that PSV had taken the lead against Fortuna Sittard. “Hopefully we keep the six points in the city,” was the bridge to the hockey field.
That hope turned out to be – unfortunately for the announcer and the other fans of OR – in vain. Because it was Pinoké who struck hard at the beginning of quarter three. Within a hundred seconds a 0-2 score appeared on the boards. First it was Marlon Landbrug, who was allowed to push Pinoké’s first corner. Hendrickx’s stand-in did this with verve: the ball plopped neatly into the side net next to Blaak. Barely recovered from that blow, Pinoké delivered the next blow. This time it was youth international Danilo Trieling, who controlled the ball beautifully and hit hard with his forehand: 0-2.
All eyes on Van Merriënboer
The Oranje-Rood players immediately put their heads together at the head of the circle. They had not yet encountered these setbacks this season. It took about ten minutes for the much-needed answer to arrive. The second corner of the match did produce results. Gijs van Merriënboer put his scribble under the tying goal (1-2). This not only earned the club kid applause, his passport photo was also shown on the large neon screen. Just in case anyone at OR didn’t know who the defender was yet.
Pinoké accelerated again at the beginning of quarter four. The extra energy was almost rewarded with a third Amsterdam goal. Troost had the ball to tap in, but to his own dismay he missed that enormous opportunity. Shortly afterwards, the goal jingle ‘So happy together’ blared when Jamie van Aart scored, but his goal was disallowed due to a shootout.
It turned out to be the starting signal for a nice final phase, in which Van Merriënboer was once again the leading player. The defender was allowed to flatten freely and then push a corner again, but that did not result in any goals. So his photo did not appear on the screen again. But more importantly: the Oranje-Red ended up empty-handed because of those misses, for the first time this season.