It was a dazzling performance by hosts USA who were leading 2-0 over England after a solid performance a day earlier that was only lacking quality finish. Fourth quarter goals from each of England’s Pippa Lock and Sophie Hamilton tied the game 2-2 to force shootouts. Despite the loss, USA netminder Kelsey Bing was outstanding and earned Player of the Match. Ellie Rayer, Isabelle Petter and Hamilton tallied for England to earn the extra point after a 3-1 shoot-out win. To see the current women’s FIH Pro League Standings, click here.
A Franco Agostini goal in the 59th minute was the dagger to the hearts of South Africa who led 2-1 until that point. Fantastic finishes from Nqobile Ntuli and Connor Beauchamp gave promise to the visiting side, but the Leones showed their resilience and played right until the dying moments. After nearly scoring after their tying goal, the Leones were able to get the job done in the shootouts. Keeper Emiliano Bosso was exceptional in the shootouts for Argentina as Ladislao Gencarelli and Bautista Capurro scored to affirm a 2-1 shootout victory. To see the current men’s FIH Pro League Standings, click here.
United States v England (women) – Karen Shelton Stadium Chapel Hill, North Carolina (USA)
Host nation USA came close to turning around the 3-1 defeat they suffered in the first FIH Pro League match against England. A sparkling performance in the first half saw the host nation leading 2-0, the first time they have scored twice in a Pro League match since February 2020. However, relentless pressure from England saw that lead eroded in the second half and a late fourth quarter goal from Sophie Hamilton brought the game to a draw. England's experience saw them win the resulting shootout 3-1 to take a bonus point.
In the earlier match, USA has shown some great energy in their build-up play but had been unable to capitalise. This time around, in the first half at least, they were far more efficient in front of goal and were rewarded for their efforts.
England created their own chances - both Sophie Hamilton and Ellie Rayer could have scored in the opening minutes of the match - but Kelsey Bing in the USA goal was enjoying an impeccable performance between the posts.
USA’s opening goal came from Megan Rodgers whose determination to find a way through a packed defence resulted in her side taking the lead just before the end of the first quarter.
That lead was doubled when Daniela Grega was in a great position to flip the ball over Sabbie Heesh after a clever penalty corner variation.
The third quarter saw no further goals although Grace Balsden came close for England as her penalty corner shot struck the post after evading Kelsey Bing’s outstretched foot. During this quarter it was England who were more on the front foot but there was no reward for the hard work.
England finally made their way back into the match in the fourth quarter. Pippa Lock was ideally placed to scoop the ball over Kelsey Bing after Holly Hunt had driven strongly along the USA baseline.
With this breakthrough, and the score standing at 2-1 England began to play with far greater intensity and USA found themselves digging deep to hold onto their fragile lead.
From looking comfortable at 2-0, USA suddenly looked nervy and mistakes began to creep into the host nation’s performance.
With their unrelenting pressure It was almost inevitable that England would score an equaliser. It came from Sophie Hamilton who had an easy tap in after Hollie Pearne-Webb’s penalty corner strike was saved.
In the shoot-out, England prevailed to score three goals to USA’s one, taking a bonus point from this match and five valuable points from the two matches. Player of the Match was USA goalkeeper Kelsey Bing. Speaking after the game, the keeper said: ‘I think we struggled in Match 2 so I think we showed we can come and compete in Match 2. Obviously we have a bit to work on. We want to win that game. Losing in a shootout is not acceptable but we will work on that next time.’
Argentina v South Africa (men) – Cenard, Buenos Aires (ARG)
In another close and heated matchup South Africa nearly earned their first win over Argentina since 2013 but a penalty corner goal from 21-year-old Franco Agostini in the 59th minute provided the heroics to split the points and send the game to a shootout. The game was just as tight in the shootouts as Emiliano Bosso was incredible between the pipes for Argentina and Ladislao Gencarelli provided the winning goal after Nqobile Ntuli hit the post on South Africa’s third shot.
The scoring opened in the second quarter as Lautaro Ferrero looked almost casual flicking in a penalty corner shot stick side and low on South African keeper Estiaan Kriek. South Africa continued their exciting style of play to earn a tying goal in the 36th minute. Fantastic work high up the field from Nqobile Ntuli resulted in Ntuli burying a pass from Samkelo Mvimbi for the equalizer.
Connor Beauchamp made it 2-1 for South Africa firing home a penalty corner flick with such precision to split the Argentine keeper and post player. The game continued to be a breath-taker as South Africa held the 2-1 lead until the 59th minute. Up until that point the final 10 minutes were all Argentina. Franco Agostini fired a pass to an untended far post that made the home crowd gasp, while Bautista Capurro’s exceptional lifted skills on the right baseline started a series of late penalty corners.
Ferrero had his flick charged down by the speedy Keenan Horne and the resulting re-award shot was fired past the left post and again, no one was there. South Africa were then served two yellow cards in the last four minutes of play – one to Matthew Guise-Brown and the other to Matthew De Sousa. Argentina poured on the pressure and Capurro earned another penalty corner for the Leones. This time Agostini, as he had done so well at the Junior World Cup, scored a flick stick side on Kriek to tie the game 2-2.
While there was less than a minute left, Argentina showed they were in it for the full three points. Tobias Martins zipped a pass across the South African goal that went untouched and then Federico Fernandez’s back-hand shot forced a close-range save from Kriek. The Leones had another penalty corner but Kriek’s right foot denied Agostini a second goal in his senior debut. Capurro also had one more chance for Argentina to take the win but it was deflected over the cross bar.
The game went to shootouts with Bosso denying Trevor de Lora and Siquavuya Nolutshungu denying Nicolas Acosta on the opening attempts. Guise-Brown drilled home a penalty stroke after Rusten Abrahams was fouled by Bosso for the opening goal, while Capurro calmly finished on the back-hand to draw the shootouts 1-1. Ntuli thought he would give his side the go-ahead but after beating Bosso, he devastatingly hit the post. Tobias Martens was forced to shoot wide, while Chad Futcher’s leg blocked Bosso out to bring the pressure down to Gencarelli. A calm slot-in off the backhand gave Argentina the 2-1 lead and the dramatics continued. Bradley Sherwood had a retake that after video referral affirmed a penalty stroke. Guise-Brown rung the right post to give Argentina the 2-1 shootout victory and extra point.
Nicolas Acosta was named Player of the Match and was proud of his team after the weekend, commenting: ‘I think the whole weekend was very positive because we can show our system of playing and also our attitude. I think that’s the most important. Today we came back from being down 2-1. We draw, then we won the shootout and that’s very important for us. We are very confident going into the next matches in Europe. We trust in our systems, our players and our coaches and we are looking forward to those games.’
The recently returned Samkelo Mvimbi said about South Africa: “The boys made some strides today, especially in today’s game. It’s been a process since the first Pro League round. For myself personally, I haven’t been with the team for a while so it’s just about getting back and playing some hockey.”
Coming up next in FIH Pro League action, Germany will host England men and women on 4-5 May, followed by Spain hosting Argentina men and women on 14-15 May.
FIH Pro League – 24 April 2022
Karen Shelton Stadium Chapel Hill, North Carolina (USA)
Result: Women’s Match 30
USA 2, England 2 (1-3 Shootout)
Player of the Match: Kelsey Bing (USA)
Umpires: Suzi Sutton (USA), Maggie Giddens (USA), Tyler Klenk (CAN-video)
Cenard, Buenos Aires (ARG)
Result: Men’s Match 38
Argentina 2, South Africa 2 (2-1 Shootout)
Player of the Match: Nicolas Acosta (ARG)
Umpires: German Montes de Oca (ARG), Irene Presenqui (ARG), Diego Barbas (ARG-video)
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