Two highly competitive matches on the opening night of the FIH Pro League 2023-24 Season has seen Argentina’s Women’s and Men’s teams secure favourable results against Great Britain in Santiago del Estero.
In a women’s game where both goalkeepers were in outstanding form, neither side could find a winner as it finished nil-all at full time, before the home side prevailed 2-1 in the shootout to claim a bonus point.
Then in the men’s match, two world class finishes from Agustin Mazzilli and Tomas Domene gave Argentina a 2-1 victory and maximum points over Great Britain.
(Women’s) Argentina vs Great Britain 0-0 (2-1)
On a warm night in Santiago del Estero, Great Britain nearly started the new season in perfect fashion, Giselle Ansley flashing a drag flick narrowly past the top left hand corner.
However, it was the home side who had the better of the early exchanges. Argentina’s best chance of the opening quarter came when a searching overhead found Eugenia Trinchinetti and she fired a well-timed effort towards goal but the Great Britain defence managed to diffuse the threat.
Great Britain goalkeeper Sabbie Heesh was on high alert as she produced a sharp save from a tomahawk. At the other end, a magnificent run from Hannah French that saw her skirt past several Argentina defenders earned Great Britain a penalty corner but goalkeeper Clara Barberi made a superb save with an outstretched right foot to deny Ansley’s drag flick.
Heesh was called on again as she closed down a goal bound effort from the dangerous Delfina Thome. Great Britain’s cause was not helped when Sophie Hamilton received a yellow card in the shadows of half time but they managed to hold firm.
Argentina continued to dominate possession and territory in the second half but Great Britain were defending resolutely. Victoria Manuele almost made her senior international debut one to savour when she advanced into the circle but Heesh again came up big for Great Britain to keep scores level.
Ansley sent a drag flick towards the top corner in the 42nd minute but it was well saved by Barberi, before Flora Peel manufactured a circle entry but could not direct an effort on target as Great Britain enjoyed a dominant period.
Maria Granatto found some rare space in the circle and had the best chance to break the deadlock but the encroaching Heesh forced the Argentinean star to rush and Great Britain survived again.
After not having a shootout during all of last season, Great Britain did not start this one well as Barberi denied Tessa Howard before Heesh kept out Jalieta Jankunas.
Barberi proved the hero as she denied Great Britain’s last three shootout attempts to give the hosts a bonus point.
“I feel excellent. I was expecting this moment, so I think I did well,” said Clara Barberi who was named Player of the Match.
(Men’s) Argentina v Great Britain 2-1
Entering the match after contrasting fortunes last season – Great Britain finished runners up while Argentina finished eighth – both sides were looking to make an early statement.
After an even first ten minutes, Argentina broke through when Lucas Toscani launched a searching ball from the right into the attacking circle and Agustin Mazzilli made perfect first-time connection, deflecting the ball past Oliver Payne in the Great Britain goal.
Having taken the lead, Argentina attempted to take the sting out of the contest as Great Britain looked to manufacture an equaliser.
Tomas Domene sent a drag flick inches wide of the post before Great Britain triggered a lightning counter attack but the final decisive pass just missed its mark.
The lively James Gall earned Great Britain a penalty corner in the 25th minute, Nicholas Bandurak’s resultant drag flick saved by Tomas Santiago.
Great Britain mounted one final attack to close the first half but they could not penetrate the Argentinean defensive wall.
Payne made a reflex save to keep out another Domene drag flick but with the hosts enjoying a strong of set pieces, they eventually doubled their advantage in the 41st minute. Another Domene drag flick was blocked by the first defensive runner but the ball fell invitingly for the Argentinean who adjusted his grip and drilled a tomahawk into the backboard to make it 2-0.
Argentina defended deep as they looked to absorb an increasingly desperate Great Britain, whose frustration boiled over when Jack Waller received a yellow card in the opening minute of the last quarter.
Great Britain refused to lie down, a Zach Wallace ball into the circle narrowly missing the stick of Bandurak at the far post.
Argentina was content to wind down the clock before Sam Ward scored a stunning late consolation goal on the full time buzzer to make it 2-1 at full time.
“That win was really important for us. Being the first match of the season, our aim is to be in the top four, so the plan today was to play at 100 per cent for all of the game, so we are happy with the result,” said Player of the Match Tomas Domene.
Match Day 2 of the FIH Pro League 2023-24 Season will see Great Britain take on defending men’s and women’s champions the Netherlands starting with the women’s match at 7:00pm local time.
To see the current standings in the FIH Hockey Pro League, click here.
FIH Pro League – 6 December 2023
Santiago del Estero (ARG)
Result: Women’s Match 1
Argentina 0-0 (2-1) Great Britain
Player of the Game: Clara Barberi (ARG)
Umpires: Ayanna McClean (TTO), Irene Presenqui (ARG), Jonathan Altamirano (MEX-video)
Result: Men’s Match 1
Argentina 2-1 Great Britain
Player of the Game: Tomas Domene (ARG)
Umpires: German Montes de Oca (ARG), Gabriel Labate (ARG), Federico Silva (ARG-video)