Author: Mitch Wynd
The Hockeyroos pushed the world number one Netherlands all the way to a penalty shootout on home soil in the inaugural FIH Pro League, going down 4-3 after a 2-2 draw in regulation time.
Mariah Williams and Kaitlin Nobbs scored for Australia in a match that was largely dominated by the Netherlands everywhere except the scoreboard due to some resolute defence and typical Australian fight.
The match started in sweltering conditions in Amstelveen - the mercury reaching the 35 degree mark amidst a widespread heatwave in Europe.
Rachael Lynch was forced into a dramatic save in the sixth minute, when she palmed the initial shot into the air before turning around and clearing the ball before it crossed the goal line.
The Netherlands controlled much of the play throughout the first quarter, however the Australian defence absorbed the pressure well.
A crucial moment of the second quarter was the save from Rachael Lynch leading to a penalty stroke being awarded to the Netherlands, upon video referral the penalty stroke was overturned.
With a couple of penalty corners going Australia’s way, the breakthrough first goal came in the 19th minute after Mariah Williams made a clever touch from Jodie Kenny’s initial shot to wrong foot the goalkeeper.
A costly turnover in midfield led to the home team equalising through Marijn Veen on the run, smashing the ball past Lynch who had made several good saves to that point.
Much like the semi-final against Argentina, Australia held on in the contest despite the opposition controlling much of the possession and attacking chances.
A few scoring opportunities did present themselves in the third quarter, Mariah Williams had a shot for a second goal denied, before a defensive error almost allowed Grace Stewart to score from directly in front only to be blocked by Veenendaal.
The final quarter started with drama, as a Dutch goal was ruled out after an umpire referral much to the displeasure of the vocal home crowd.
Their disappointment did not last long though, as Kelly Jonker scored three minutes later with a deflection up high beyond the reach of Lynch.
More drama followed as a penalty stroke was awarded to Australia with two minutes left in the match following a Dutch foul on the goal line from a well taken penalty corner from Jodie Kenny. Kaitlin Nobbs stepped up to the spot and coolly converted to bring scores level again.
With the match drawn, the Hockeyroos went to the shootout for the second time in two games.
The shootout was also a tense affair, with the Netherlands winning 4-3 and claiming the Pro League title.
Hockeyroos coach Paul Gaudoin spoke of the pride he had in his team no matter the result.
“Extremely proud of the effort of the girls today in a really tough environment. It was a very competitive match, we had some good chances in the third quarter which was pleasing to see,” he said post-match.
“Anyone could have won the shootout…it is really important to have the opportunity to play in these matches which provide such great experience for Oceania Cup and the Tokyo Olympics.”
Australia 2 (Williams 19’, Nobbs 58’) - 3 (Nobbs O, Malone O, M Fitzpatrick X, Williams O, Peris X)
Netherlands 2 (Veen 24’, Jonker 49’) - 4 (Ketels O, de Waard O, Verschoor O, Veen X, Stam O)