While the titles of the men's and women's FIH Pro League may have been decided, there are still a number of matches to be played, with final places and individual awards to be decided. Today's matches saw Netherlands seal second place as they defeated China in a hard-fought 2-1 victory. Earlier in the day, India had put on a 10 minute goal scoring surge to overcome a resilient USA.
United States v India (women) – HC Rotterdam, Rotterdam (NED)
A moment of brilliance from Erin Matson just ahead of half-time saw the USA take the lead in a very closely contested match between the team at the bottom of the FIH Pro League and the team hoping for a top three finish. Despite India's Gurjit Kaur having three attempts from penalty corners in the first 30 minutes and Shamila coming close to defelcting a ball into the USA goal, it was the resolute Americans who took the lead.
Matson sent an aerial from near the half-way sideline into the Indian circle. Danielle Grega got the faintest touch to bring the ball down and then diverted it past Savita in the India goal.
India came out from the half-time break with an energy, vigour and directness that had been missing in the first half. It was a slightly shell-shocked USA 10 minutes later after Ekka Deep Grace, Kaur Navneet and Sonika all found their way onto the scoresheet within a 10-minute spell of attacking hockey. Grace's goal was a well-struck penalty corner, and both Navneet and Sonika were the recipients of some flowing attacking moves.
USA came right back into it with a penalty corner rebound that Natalie Konerth shot smartly home after the quarter time whistle had sounded. Although India qestioned the goal, it was the result of a penalty corner that had not travelled 10 metres outside the circle and so the goal stood.
The fourth quarter saw both teams come out with a clear intent to take all three points. India had the greater share of possession and chances but it was after a spell of USA pressure that India suddenly struck from a counter attack. Katariya Vandana was able to seize onto a long pass out of defence and then stride into the USA circle and unleash a shot that flew past Jennifer Rizzo.
That goal gave India a two-goal cushion and although USA created several more chances, including one that came off the post, the score stayed at 4-2.
Player of the Match Navneet Kaur (IND) said: 'We struggled in the first half but we came back in the second half. We were struggling under pressure in the first half. But in the second half we coped with the pressure and once we started scoring we got better.'
Natalie Konerth of the USA said: 'We played how we wanted to play in the first half but not in the second half. There are things we will look to tidy up tomorrow.'
The result means India are in third place in the FIH Pro League with one game remaining. USA are in ninth position.
China v Netherlands (women) - HC Rotterdam, Rotterdam (NED)
The first quarter finished goalless, although the Netherlands will look back on a couple of chances where they could have taken the lead. Some good work by Ping Liu in the China goal and less than perfect finishing by the Dutch forwards meant that the teams stayed at 0-0 going into the second half.
The breakthrough didn't come until the final minutes of the second quarter. to that point, China had set up a defensive wall that the Dutch were just unable to find a way through. The goal was created and scored by Laurien Leurink. She picked the ball up on the edge of the China circle and then drove strongly into the circle before shooting. The presence of Lidewij Welten in front of the goal was enough to distract Ping and the Netherlands finally had a break.
At half-time China Head Coach Alyson Annan called for more courage to go forwards and her team answered within two minutes. Chen Yang was the beneficiary of some slick passing moves in the Dutch defensive quarter, which finally arrived to Chen Yang and she skilfully turned and shot past Josine Koning.
What followed was 20 plus minutes of obdurate Chinese defence as the entire team worked to get behind the ball and prevent any Dutch incursions into the danger areas. Eventually however, an interception by Felice Albers of an ambitious aerial out of defence, saw Albers slip the ball to Frederique Matla who picked out Maria Verschoor with a good pass. The midfielder made no mistake as she shot high into Ping's goal.
That was the final score of the game and Netherlands came away from the match with another three points but having faced a challenge in working out how to break down a stubborn and committed defence.
Player of the Match, Xan de Waard (NED) said: 'It was weird playing our former coach. Today we were the better team, we had a lot of chances in the circle. We needed patience in attack and we were unlucky to concede a goal because they only had one shot on goal. Today we got or connections right with some long balls to out forwards, so that was good.'
The result means Netherlands are second in the FIH Pro League, eight points ahead of India. China remain in eighth place.
The FIH Pro League action continues tomorrow (22nd June) as India brings its FIH Pro League campaign to an end with a rematch against USA. Following that match, China will be in action once more against the Netherlands. Both matches will take place at HC Rotterdam, Netherlands.
FIH Pro League – 21 June 2022
HC Rotterdam, Rotterdam (NED)
Result: Women’s Match #68
USA 2, India 4
Player of the Match: Navneet Kaur (IND)
Umpires: Liu Xiaoying (CHN), Céline Martin-Schmets (BEL), Bruce Bale (ENG-video)
Result: Women’s Match #67
China 1, Netherlands 2
Player of the Match: Xan de Waard (NED)
Umpires: Laurine Delforge (BEL), Bruce Bale (ENG-video), Céline Martin-Schmets (BEL-video)