Sunday, August 12, 2012

Rabente writes German history...

Gold medal match: Germany vs Netherlands 2-1 (half-time: 1-0)

Jan Philipp Rabente etched his name into German hockey history as his pair of goals helped Markus Weise’s side retain the Olympic title, doing it in breathless style at the Riverbank Arena. Prior to the final, Rabente was the equal lowest goalscorer in the German squad but he proved an unlikely hero with a goal in each half to counter Mink van der Weerden’s penalty corner.
    His second came with barely five minutes to go, popping up at the back post to guide home a rapturously received winner, inflicting the Netherlands’ third final defeat in the Olympics. For Weise, it further adds to his legend in the world game, making it three successive Olympics to coaching gold after he helped the women in Athens and the men in Beijing four years ago.
    Rabente’s first was the defining moment of the half, a truly superb individual goal. Dancing in from the right sideline, he skipped past the would-be tackles of Sander Baart and Rob van der Horst before cutting back and away from Wouter Jolie. On the slide, he swept past Jaap Stockmann for the lead in the 33rd minute.
   It was a highlight in a technically and tactically astute first half that saw both sides have their share of opportunities. Rogier Hofman was the first to shoot, his half-stunned backhand shot almost out-foxing Max Weinhold. The German goalkeeper would later brilliantly deny Billy Bakker twice.
   Germany were looking equally threatening as Florian Fuchs’ incredible run and shot whizzed just by the post. Just one corner accrued, going the way of the Dutch, but Roderick Weusthof’s drag-flick was charged down a few minutes before Rabente broke the deadlock with time running out in the half.
    And the Germans could have been further ahead when Matthias Witthaus latched onto a loose ball in the circle, created by Benjamin Wess’ right-wing burst, and smashed the inside of the post.
    From there, the Dutch laid siege the German goal before the corners eventually came, Sander de Wijn victim of one physical tackle too many. Martin Haener charged down van der Weerden’s first effort but his second was a barnstormer. It sent Max Mueller ducking for cover, meaning he scored in every game in the competition, netting eight times in the tournament.
    It reawakened Germany’s attacking intentions as Oskar Deecke’s thrust wreaked havoc and Christopher Zeller’s reverse was batted away by Stockmann. And the winner came in the 65th minute. Rabente’s direct running was once again the key as he raced through; this time on the left and while his initial run was blocked and cleared by Marcel Balkestein. It only went as far as Tobias Hauke, however, and he returned the ball with interest from the 23-metre line, angling it to the back post. In the meantime, Rabente had the presence of mind to run around the back of the goal and was in the perfect position to tip in.
    It ended dreams of the Netherlands becoming the first nation to win both men’s and women’s tournaments at the same Games, a feat that has not been done in any sport since Yugoslavia in handball in 1984. For Germany the spoils as they repeated their European championships final victory over the Netherlands to claim their third title since 1992 in thrilling fashion.

(Stephen Findlater)

Bronze medal match: Australia vs Great Britain 3-1 (half-time: 1-1)

Australia claimed their sixth bronze medal in their men’s Olympic history as their all-out aggression eventually wore down hosts Great Britain in the third place playoff, the penultimate match of the London Games. Close range rebounds from Jamie Dwyer and Kieran Govers saw them over the line after Simon Orchard’s thunderbolt was counteracted by Iain Lewers’ corner goal.
    It meant the kookaburras finished third for the fourth time in five Games while 1988 remains the last time GB were on the medal podium. Throughout, Australia were the side to force the issue, their swarming forwards pressurising the home defence into a series of mistakes but they proved profligate in converting circle entries into clean chances.
    They were almost caught on the counter-attack, though, as Dan Fox’s excellent diagonal overhead found Barry Middleton. He chose to angle a pass to the back post rather than shoot himself, allowing Timothy Deavin the chance to intercept. Australia did hit the front in the 18th minute when Simon Orchard smashed home his 39th international goal, working his way through a tackle into the circle before unleashing a furious strike through James Fair’s desperate dive.
    Richard Smith was needed to hustle another effort out of the goalmouth moments later but GB hit back when Harry Martin barreled through a couple of tackles to win his side’s first penalty corner. They chose a sweet option with Ashley Jackson firing the ball back to the injector Iain Lewers who swept home first time, leaving the tie 1-1 at the break.
    The green and golds kept their philosophy for the second period, Glenn Turner and Deavin combining well to draw a good near post save from Fair. Matt Daly’s near post effort thudded off Nathan Burgers pads in a brief bit of respite before Australia started to turn the screw. The second of three video-aided penalty corners found its way in from Dwyer as Govers’ drag-flick popped up invitingly at the second attempt.
    Two more corners went incomplete but Govers grabbed the clincher as a Dwyer punch-shot again rebounded perfectly and the Aussie volleyed home. GB finished with a big final push but Burgers was never truly tested and their wait for a medal continues for another four years.