Author: Mitch Wynd
The Kookaburras squandered the opportunity to secure top-four qualification in the FIH Pro League after a 3-2 defeat to Spain in Madrid.
Victory would have seen Australia confirmed as top-four finishers and qualification secured for the Pro League finals in Amsterdam.
A goal in the first few minutes looked to have Australia off to the perfect start, and the majority of the attacking play went their way throughout the match.
But numerous opportunities to score weren’t taken, and when given the same chances Spain were able to take full advantage of them.
Tim Brand got Australia off to the perfect start with a diving goal in the third minute of play, low to the left of the Spanish goalkeeper Garin.
Coach Colin Batch commented on Australia’s slow start against Great Britain prematch, and would have been pleased to see his team attack the first quarter with intensity and ferocity.
Flynn Ogilvie, on the end of a brilliant defence-splitting pass, found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper late in the first, however Garin was able to make the first of his many saves.
The first quarter saw all of the attacking play go Australia’s way, with the home team unable to create any genuine scoring chances.
The attacking dominance continued into the second quarter, however finding a second goal was proving a challenge.
Spain won the match’s first penalty corner in the 28th minute and took full advantage of it, Josep Romeu firing a rocket into the roof past the outstretched glove of Andrew Charter in goal, to tie the match up just before half time.
Australia won their first penalty corner in the 36th minute, and a good flick from Blake Govers was denied by a better save by Garin.
With the hosts starting to build more and more confidence as the clock ticked on, a poor clearance in defence was pounced on by Xavi Lleonart who made it 2-1 for Spain.
Some daring runs were made by Daniel Beale and Tom Craig, trying to spark the visitors into top gear. Unfortunately, while the build-up was good the finishing touch was lacking.
With five minutes remaining, Australia made the move to bring Charter off and roll the dice with eleven outfield players.
This proved to be a successful strategy with the Kookaburras earning a 58th minute penalty corner that resulted in a penalty stroke for Australia which Blake Govers duly converted to tie the game with just over two minutes to play.
It looked like a second consecutive shootout was on the cards for Australia, however the Spanish were determined to get the job done in regulation time.
Spain won a 60th minute penalty corner, and Romeu’s resulting second goal was sent upstairs for referral. The goal was upheld by the third umpire and Spain held on for the remaining minute to secure their first regulation time win of the FIH Pro League.
The Kookaburras’ next match is on Sunday against Germany in Krefeld, the second half of a double-header with the Hockeyroos.
Australia 2 (Brand 3’, Govers 58’)
Spain 3 (Romeu 28’, Lleonart 44’, Romeu 60’)