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Pro League 2024 (London) 


Written by; Tao MacLeod

Day 7

Great Britain 2 – 1 Spain (Men)

Great Britain 3 (2) – (1) 3 China (Women)

Germany 2 – 3 Australia (Men)

Australia 2 – 3 Germany (Women)

What Happened Today

Great Britain 2 – 1 Spain (Men)

Spain lost their referral within the first four minutes, then later had what looked to me to be a good goal disallowed. Spain tried to break up the play of their opponents with a low block, they kept things tight at the back and Britain found it hard to get many shots on target from open play. After a nice run down the right wing that attacked the British baseline, a Spanish cut back allowed for an attempt to almost be deflected in from close range, but seemed to glance the bar instead. Moments later Britain went up the other end. Conor Williamson got a second phase shot over the line to make it one nil for the home team. The Spanish equaliser came four minutes into the fourth quarter. A short corner beat the post player for pace, down low to the goalkeeper’s left. Alan Forsyth retook the lead for Britain with a well taken goal, after some good play from David Goodfield, which was the deciding factor. 

Great Britain 3 (2) – (1) 3 China (Women)

Tess Howard opened the scoring for Britain with a field goal in the fifth minute, after a nice bit of interplay between the midfield and forward line opened up some space for her in front of the goal. Anna Toman’s deflection from a short corner made it two goals to nil at half time. The Chinese halved the deficit in the 37th minute after Zou Meirong scored at the back post. China carried on with their attacking mindset in the final period, as they looked to get back into the game. Their momentum was broken up after what appeared to be a serious impact injury to Fiona Crackles, when she collided with a Chinese player. 

After the game restarted the hosts forced a turn over deep inside the opposition half. Sarah Robertson carried the ball for about five yards, which forced a defender to commit to her and she was then able to release Charlotte Watson into space. The Dundonian was always going to come out on top in a one versus one situation with the goalie and she scored a goal made in Scotland. With about four minutes of the game to go, China were awarded a penalty corner. Britain referred this decision and lost it. The Chinese then hit the post and scored on the rebound, which was then referred (again) upstairs, this time by the umpire. The replays showed that the high second shot hit a defender on the way into the net, which was considered dangerous and therefore a free hit was given to the hosts. However, the tourists did strike back moments later (after Tess Howard was shown a yellow card), with another field goal at the back post, with Ma Ning getting the all important final touch. With about a minute and a half to go, China’s Zhong Jiaqi got a deflection that forced a tie breaker situation in the form of a penalty shootout. Lily Walker and Tess Howard put Britain two penalties ahead, before He Jiangxin got one back. However, China then missed their decisive shuffle which meant that Britain took the bonus point from the game. 

Tess Howard, goalscorer for Great Britain today, spoke about the match against China, penalty shootouts and other things in this post match interview…

Germany 2 – 3 Australia (Men)

A competitive first opening period saw chances created at either end. It was the Germans who scored first through a short corner routine that saw Moritz Ludwig get himself on the scoresheet. The Aussies looked to play a fast, direct style of play, as their long passes found forwards in high positions. It was with this mindset that they found an equaliser. A lung busting run by the ball carrier, found Jake Whetton, who tucked the ball away nicely. The Germans weren’t happy, as they felt that one of their defenders had been taken out by the goalscorer, but they opted to not use their referral. 

Gonzalo Peillet helped his side to retake the lead, through a drag from a short corner. The Argentine born German drag flicker is a world class set-piece specialist and he has been scoring for fun whilst in London. Die Honamas continued to press their opponents and gained a few circle entries, without creating any clear cut chances. The Aussies then went up the other end and hit the crossbar from a counter attack. The German response was to put the ball into the back of the net themselves, but this was disallowed for an attacking infringement. Australia continued to be put under pressure, pinned to their own defensive area for much of the fourth quarter. However, a foray into the opposition half saw them win a short corner for themselves. A little slip pass at the top of the circle, saw Tim Howard slap the ball into the goal to level the scores yet again. 

A direct pass from Lachlan Sharp from inside his own half released two of his team mates to run at the German defence. This resulted in a short corner and a green card for Martin Zwicker. After having gained a reward of the set piece, they appeared to have scored from an Eddie Ockenden deflection, but we were made to wait for the outcome of a German referral. The goal was allowed and Germany had a mere 82 seconds to get back into the game. They couldn’t do it and having been behind for most of the game Australia win it at the death… 

Eddie Ockenden of Australia spoke to the Half Court Press about the last minute win his team got against Germany, in the FIH Pro League…

Australia 2 – 3 Germany (Women)

An early goal by Germany’s Charlotte Stapenhorst came about after a shot was initially saved by the goalkeeper. However, the centre forward was on hand to pick up the loose ball. She moved it into space and sent it neatly over the line. Die Danas created several decent chances, in the second quarter, that tested the prowess of Jocelyn Bartram in the nets; the Hockeyroos goalie was up to the challenge. In the third period, though, Nike Lorenz added a second from a short corner, that she rifled into the bottom corner to the goalie’s left. A third came from a set piece in the 39th minute, when Lisa Nolte got a deflection right in front of the goalkeeper. 

Die Danas are a well oiled machine. They don’t make many mistakes, instead look to force errors from the opposition. Australia didn’t seem to have been at he races for much of today, perhaps ground down somewhat by Germany’s patient style of play. One of the few times that the Europeans did make a mistake (a turnover high up the pitch), the Aussies weren’t able to capitalise, with a missed connection at the end of a counter attack. Australia finally got on the score sheet, after Cecile Pieper was shown a yellow card. The Hockeyroos used this power play well, by going straight up the other end. A long pass found Rosie Malone, who used some of her jiggery-pokery skills to get along the baseline before finding a team mate with a good pass. It was Alice Arnott that she found, who finished off the well worked counter attack. This inspired them to come further forward. Claire Colwill scored from a penalty corner that made for an interesting final few minutes. However, Australia couldn’t find a third and Germany finished as the winners. 

Star Player

GB’s Alan Forsyth had a quiet game today, he only scored the one goal. He is a top notch finisher of the ball and he showed his skills with a deft touch in his match against Spain this morning. However, I’m gong to instead opt for an Australian. Jake Whetton was named Player of the Match in a tightly contested men’s game today, between his Australian side and the Germans. He scored his side’s initial equaliser on the way to a three goals to two win, in their push for the FIH Pro League title. 

Goal of the Day

The Chinese ladies stunned the home crowd with a late equaliser in their match against Great Britain today. A cross come shot from the left side of the circle saw a deflection from Zhong Jiaqi that proved to be unstoppable. But I will suggest that this was bettered by the Scottish captain, whilst he was playing for the British men’s team today…

Alan Forsyth’s goal against Spain was lovely. David Goodfield attacked down the left wing, before cutting inside along the baseline. After beating three players, he cut the ball back to the centre forward. The Scotland’s skipper took a touch, saw where the space was and stuck an upright reverse shot past the goalkeeper. 

Alan Forsyth of Scotland and Great Britain spoke to the Half Court Press after scoring the winning goal against Spain in the FIH Pro League today…

Game of the Day

The best action was seen in the Germany versus Australia men’s game in the late afternoon. There were goals aplenty, with a fire and ice type of nuance to the competition. The Germans, with their controlled style of play, had a lot of possession and forced the Aussies to retreat for large portions of the match, limiting them to probing counter attacks. The Kookaburras, all fire and passion, adapted their initial plan to take on the Europeans. Their never say die attitude saw them come from behind twice, finally getting the winner with less than a minute and a half to go. This was one for the neutral fans. 

Thought of the Day

Two games were greatly affected by the use of sin bins today. The British and German ladies teams were both in charge of their own destiny up until the final quarter where cards were shown to players. Their respective opponents then used their power plays to bring themselves back into contention. For China they even got themselves a draw and forced a penalty shootout. This, I think, is a better system than that in football. Here, the cynicism of the professional foul is encouraged at the top level, which nullifies attacking ambition, flair and creativity. There’s no real reason for footy defenders not to become masters of the dark arts. In hockey umpires are able to give the fouled team an actual advantage over ill discipline and the intentional impairment of opponents. Having an additional player on the pitch encourages forward thinking fluidity. The risk that comes with being sat down for two to ten minutes actually means that defenders have to be proactively organised, instead of reactively dirty.

Great Britain vs China; women’s FIH Pro League June 2024 London. Photo copyright; Tao MacLeod. Click on the image to listen to the Half Court Press Podcast.

Click on the image to listen to the Half Court Press Podcast.