Early high tempo from Netherlands shuts door on Argentina

The Netherlands returned to FIH Hockey Pro League action with a scintillating first half performance against Argentina. The host nation were unable to sustain the tempo but by the time they ran out of steam, the game was beyond Argentina’s reach.

It is four months since the Dutch last played FIH Pro League hockey; on that occasion they beat France 5-1, but the men in orange started with an energy and flow that immediately put Argentina on the back foot.

For their part, Argentina are on the verge of completing their FIH Pro League matches, with tomorrow’s (2 June) match their final fixture. They currently sit in third place in the league and will now be relying on other team’s to decide their final position.

Jair van der Horst and Bram van Battum both scored on debut. Van der Horst’s goal was within three minutes of the start of the game and the newcomer’s first touch on the ball. Van Battum’s goal was a perfect example of how a squaerial (an aerial that goes cross pitch) can change the angle of attack. Van Battum was in the perfect position to receive a pass and shoot home. Jip Janssen completed a trio of goals in the first half with a powerful penalty corner strike that went through Tomas Santiago’s legs in the Argentina goal.

Netherlands started the second half in much the same fashion. Two quick goals from Koen Bijen and Tjep Hoedemakers gave the team a seemingly indomitable 5-0 lead. Bijen’s goal was a well struck shot from the edge of the D and then Bijens turned provider as he laid on a perfect pass for Hoedemakers to run onto.

A yellow card for Stein van Heijningen was the catalyst for a change in momentum and Argentina took full advantage. First Nicolas della Torre whipped home a penalty corner that left Pirmin Blaak just watching it go past him and then Martin Ferreiro was on hand to send a second goal past Blaak.

Argentina piled on the pressure in the final 20 minutes of the match and were unfortunate not to find more reward for their efforts. After such a scintillating start, Jeroen Delmee will be seeking to understand how his team looked to have so rapidly drained of energy and ideas on the pitch.

Player of the Match, Derck de Vilder (NED) said: ‘The feeling of being voted Player of the Match is great. I am very happy that we won. The first half we played man to man and it went well. In the second half, we switched to zonal marking and we had trouble with that and couldn’t find each other.’

Nicolas della Torre (ARG) said: ‘The first quarter was very uncomfortable for us and we made a lot of mistakes. After that, getting back into the game was difficult. But, we have come a long way and we want to get a good result for our final match, so we will look to improve tomorrow.’

The results mean that Argentina are third in the FIH Hockey Pro League and Netherlands are sixth, but with nine matches still to play.