Monday, August 6, 2012

Dutch in the semis

Netherlands v. Germany 3-1 (half-time: 1-1)

A berth in the semi-finals was on the line in the meeting between the two European giants, Germany and the Netherlands and it was the Dutch that claimed the first semi-final spot in the men’s tournament with a 3-1 win. It seemed only fitting that the man scoring the key go-ahead goal was veteran Teun de Nooijer, who was celebrating his 450th cap in front of the Dutch Royal family members Prince Willem and his wife Maxima.
The win guarantees the Dutch their seventh-consecutive top four finish and puts the defending Olympic champion, Germany, in peril of not cracking into the semi-finals. The Germans need to pick up at least one point in their game on Tuesday against New Zealand or hope for a Korean loss to make the playoffs.
Germany took the lead just two minutes into action on its first penalty corner chance. Christopher Zeller easily hit the mark on the chance to give the Germans the early 1-0 advantage, it would be the last that they would hold the advantage as the Dutch sparked back to life and never looked back. The lead lasted for just over 10 minutes when Bob de Voogd scooped up a rebound and fired in the second-chance shot to tie the game at one.
de Nooijer’s go-ahead goal came just moments into the second half as he was waiting by the far post for a spot on pass and gave the Dutch the 2-1 lead and more importantly the momentum to open the half, The Netherlands quickly built on their lead when Mink van der Weerden went top shelf on a penalty corner to open up a 3-1 lead.
The pace was fast and furious in the second half as the teams treated the sold out Riverbank Arena to end-to-end action. Germany did it’s best to climb back into the game, but the two-goal lead was too much to overcome as the Netherlands booked their semi-final ticket.
Germany closes its preliminary round action with the last game of the day on Tuesday against New Zealand, while the Netherlands will take on Korea in what are the two essential games for the semi-final picture in Group B
 (Eric Bailey)

India vs. Korea: 1-4 (half-time: 1-1)

Korea scored 3 out of 5 penalty-corners to earn a comfortable win against India (4-1) and the third place in Pool B, leaving India dejected and still pointless in the competition.
Korea were promptly all over the Indian defense and Jang Jong Hyun opened the scoring on their first penalty-corner with an unstoppable flick under the crossbar. India reacted immediately and Gurwinder Singh Chandi equalized on a cross from Dharamvir Singh that eluded the Korean defense. They nearly scored again soon after on a similar move, with a ball stolen in midfield by Sardar Singh and relayed by Dharamvir Singh, but Lee Myung Ho in the Korean goal was up to the task this time.
Despite the rain hammering down the pitch and a storm brewing overhead, both teams maintained an attacking style with chances at both ends. Dharamvir Singh, very active today, had the Indian fans on their feet when he tried to reach a ball rolling tantalizingly close to the goal line, but a Korean defender intervened in the nick of time. They thought that they had scored on a penalty-corner with 4 minutes to go in the period, but the shot was deemed high. Sandeep hit the crossbar on the next attempt and the Korean defense cleared the third one, and halt-time was reached on par 1-1.
Second period was fast and furious, with end-to-end moves from both teams. Seo Jong Ho had a good chance after receiving the ball deep behind the defense, but he slipped when trying to turn around for the shot. Sardar Singh was all over the pitch for India, carrying the ball into the Korean circle and cleaning up in defense in the next breath. Dharamvir Singh had a few additional close misses, and it was finally the Koreans who broke the deadlock by Nam Hyun Woo on a swift penalty-corner option and a flick that shaved the post, out of reach of PR Sreejesh who had replaced Bharat Kumar Chetri in the Indian goal at half-time.
With time passing and a forth defeat looming large, India threw caution to the wind, using Sandeep Singh in a high forward position. The gambit was nearly successful, but not quite, and Lee Seung Il took advantage of the depleted Indian defense to crucify PR Sreejesh for a third goal. Nam Hyun Woo added another goal, his second of the match, on a penalty-corner earned on the buzzer, to push Korea to a comfortable victory and the third place in Pool B, leaving India dejected and still pointless in the competition.
(Yan Huckendubler)

New Zealand vs. Belgium: 1-1 (half-time: 0-0)

New Zealand and Belgium kept the crowd well entertained with end-to-end attacking hockey but could only produce one goal each.
Belgium were the faster in action and Kyle Pontifex in goal for New Zealand was called three times into action in the opening minutes. New Zealand managed to weather the initial storm, including on a penalty-corner, and play soon became more balanced. Belgium had a few more dangerous chances and Pontifex was the busiest player on the pitch.
Play remained fast and entertaining for the whole first period, with chances at both ends. Belgium had a powerful push in the last ten minutes of the period and New Zealand were clearly back on their heels. They were at a point down to 9 players on the pitch after two green cards, and Belgium peppered the goal with shots, but Pontifex once again kept the Black Sticks afloat with some steady saves.
The same pattern resumed in second period, Pontifex having to make a save in the opening minute. The end-to-end action was keeping the crowd roaring, but it is only in the 50th minute that the Belgian fans could cheer in earnest, when Tom Boon was at the conclusion of a series of quick passes in the circle to lift the ball over the Black Sticks’ goalkeeper. Belgium could have increased the score soon after on a penalty-corner but Jerome Dekeyser’s flick was not powerful enough.
New Zealand came back in the match soon after by Nicholas Wilson after a strong solitary progression on the back line, and it was back to square one for the two teams. Both teams played for the win and action was fast and furious until the end, but the defense did not flinch.
With rain starting to pour on the Riverbank Arena, New Zealand had a last chance in the final minute but Andrew Hayward’s flick hit the post and the teams had to share the points of the contest, leaving them both with one win, one draw and two losses in the standings.
(Yan Huckendubler)

GB draw opens Group A

Great Britain v. Australia 3-3 (first half: 0-2)

Group A is still wide open after Great Britain staged the best comeback of this Olympic hockey tournament to date, scoring three goals in a 19-minute span to recover from a three-goal deficit and draw current World Champion Australia, 3-3. James Tindall’s goal with 4:30 left in regulation capped the improbable comeback and threw the Group A standings back into chaos.
Australia and Great Britain now lead the hotly contested group with eight points, while Pakistan sits on seven points and Spain has four, but still has two games to play. It means the two semi-final spots all come down to Tuesday’s preliminary round finale when Australia takes on Pakistan and Great Britain faces Spain.
Australia took the early advantage thanks to two goals from Russell Ford coming three minutes apart. Ford struck eight minutes in, shooting the ball in off Great Britain goalkeeper James Fair. He followed up with Jonty Clarke sitting for a green card getting his stick on a ball bouncing through the D for the 2-0 lead.
The home supporters stuck with the team, letting up a hearty roar each time the ball crossed into the Aussie zone, but the defending World Champion had an answer to all of Great Britain’s chances.
Mark Knowles delivered a major blow to GB's hopes five minutes into the second half with his goal from the slot to up the Australian lead to three goals.
But just when it looked like Great Britain was down and out, they sparked to life when Jonty Clarke fed Christopher Ciriello from an odd angle to get GB on the board. Six minutes later things got interesting when the gap was closed to one after Barry Middleton deflected in a penalty corner to make it a 3-2 affair.
The goal brought the stadium and the Great Britain team back to life as they applied steady pressure in the Australian zone. Australia turned it’s game plan into survival mode, buckling down and playing defense, but when Knowles was whistled for a green card, Great Britain took full advantage and a streaking Tindall put in the equalizer sending the crowd and team into a frenzy.
Australia asked for a video referral on the goal, but it was clearly denied and the teams played out the last four minutes and closed the game in the 3-3 draw.
Australia entered the tournament looking invincible with an extremely strong start and every recent title under the sun, but the preliminary round action has chipped away at the armor and now they find themselves in an unusual tight spot for the last game of the group.
(Eric Bailey)

Argentina v. Spain 1-3 (half-time: 0-0)
Spain was fighting for its life in today’s game against Argentina. A win or a draw would put Spain right back into the hunt for a place in the semi-final, while a loss would leave them out in the cold. In the end, despite a surprisingly lackluster performance, Spain salvaged a 3-1 win to keep its hopes alive.

Spain sprang to life in the last five minutes of the game, netting all three of its goals after 65 minutes of silence. Pau Quemada kicked off the comeback with four minutes left in regulation for Spain when he scored after a chaotic few moments in front of the net and Miguel Delas netted the game winner a minute later to save the day for Spain.
The icing on the cake came with 40 second left one two-on-none breakaway that Xavi Lleonart finished off to top off the win.
You would never know from the action on the field that Spain’s Olympic medal dreams were on the line. The teams both played a conservative game, in stark contrast to the Great Britain v. Australia thriller directly before.
The first half was a particularly tepid affair with scoring chances few and far between and no penalty corners awarded. It wasn’t until Spain’s Juan Fernandez ran the ball in from midfield with four minutes left in the half that either team had a meaningful chance to get on the board. His effort fell short, but it at least helped to break the lethargic funk that seemed to settle over the stadium.
The teams had more spring in their step and with 15 minutes left in the game the scoring silence was finally broken when Argentina’s Lucas Vila marched through the slot and beat Francisco Cortes in the low far corner for the 1-0 lead. The goal woke Spain up as they pressured the Argentina net late in the game, and were eventually rewarded with the barrage of goals for the win
Spain stays in the thick of things in the Group A playoff hunt with seven points and the last preliminary round game against Great Britain, sitting with eight points. Meanwhile Argentina will hope to avoid the 11th-place game in its final preliminary round game against South Africa.
(Eric Bailey)

Pakistan vs. South Africa: 5-4 (half-time: 3-3)

Nine goals were scored in between Pakistan and South Africa under heavy rain, with the score seesawing between the two teams. In the end, Pakistan kept its semi-final hopes alive with a 5-4 win.
South Africa were not deterred by the rain coming down heavily on the Riverbank Arena and a swift combination in the third minute found Thornton Mcdade alone in the circle. He took his time to adjust a shot to beat Imran Shah in the Pakistani goal and open the scoring. Pakistan tried to get away from the South African pressure, mostly with long runs by Shakeel Abbasi, but it took them 15 minutes to have their first opportunity on goal, a penalty-corner, but Sohail Abbas’s low flick was coolly handled by Erasmus Pieterse in the South African goal.
In the 20th minute, Abdul Haseem Khan was at the conclusion of a decisive circle penetration by Shafqat Rasool to cap a period of domination for Pakistan and tie the game. A flurry of scoring suddenly ensued. South Africa regained the lead with a penalty-corner by Justin Reid-Ross, Pakistan equalized in the next breath by Shafqat Rasool, very active today, before taking the lead very soon after by Abdul Haseem Khan!
South Africa forced a penalty-corner with a few seconds left on the clock and Justin Reid-Ross made no mistake to score his second penalty-corner of the match to tie the game at 3-3 going into the half-time break.
In the opening minutes of second period, with rain still pouring down heavily and spectators fleeing the stands for cover, Wade Paton intercepted a clearance from the Pakistani goalkeeper to slam the ball in goal and put back South Africa in the lead 4-3!  Pakistan pushed the South African defense on their heels during most of the period, creating some excellent chances. Shakeel Abbasi had a golden opportunity when he received a cross in front of the empty goal but the ball bounced over his waiting stick. Just after, a shot by Shafqat Rasool was miraculously saved by a diving Andrew Cronje.
It seemed only a matter of time for Pakistan to find the target and, with six minutes left on the clock, they earned a penalty-corner and this time Sohail Abbas slotted his flick in the top corner to tie the score at 4-4, setting up an intense finish of match.
Finally, in the 67th minute, Waseem Ahmad found the ball in a goalmouth scramble to give the lead back to Pakistan. They managed to keep it until the end to record their second win of the competition, while the South African were totally dejected to have let the win slip away from their grasp, leaving them at the bottom of Pool A with only one point.
(Yan Huckendubler)