Women’s Olympic Hockey – Pool A
Ireland 0 Netherlands 4 (F Albers, M Pheninckx, L Leurink, F Matla)
A late flurry of goals saw world number one side the Netherlands eventually break Ireland down and win 4-0 at the Oi Stadium on day two of the women’s Olympic hockey tournament.
Felice Albers had given the Dutch a strong start but the Green Army – inspired by an Ayeisha McFerran masterclass – kept the Oranje raiders out for the guts of 40 minutes. But a final quarter barrage from Malou Pheninckx, Laurien Leurink and Frédérique Matla saw the Dutch ease home.
In so doing, they matched June’s EuroHockey Championship scoreline, extending their winning streak over Ireland to 30 games dating back to 1963.
“Unfortunately today just wasn’t quite our day,” said the immaculate McFerran. “We dug in well and I’m really proud of the defensive effort everyone put in. It was a team effort out there but that’s the Dutch for you. They’re just quite good, aren’t they?
“There’s several things we have to take and learn from it. We can’t just brush it under the carpet, but we have to move on.”
On whether she has ever made more than the 14 saves she made against Netherlands on Monday, she added: “Not at international level anyway. That’s the thing with playing them, they’re just going to keep coming, they don’t stop and you just have to be ready for whatever comes your way.
“Tough day at the office, for sure. I’m ready for a wee nap anyway now.
“As tough as it is to say, ‘yeah let’s have fun’, going in and knowing you’re going to face them, you have to keep breathing and keep being ready for the next shot. You can’t dwell on what’s coming or what’s just happened. So it’s one shot or one action at a time.”
Pre-match, skipper Katie Mullan was honoured for her 200th international cap, becoming the eighth Irish woman to reach that milestone. Michelle Carey came into the line-up with Nicci Daly rested.
Early on, there was a familiar feeling when Albers deftly finished off a flowing Dutch move in the eighth minute, a sleight of hand to nick the ball away from McFerran and slot home after Malou Pheninckx picked her out on the right of the D.
The Irish goalkeeper had already shown her steel in the first few minutes, swatting away efforts from Lidewij Welten and Laura Nunnink while Sarah McAuley and Lena Tice scooped efforts off the goal line.
McFerran’s pick of the bunch was a diving stick-stop from Frédérique Matla’s ripper of a drag-flick, tipping it around the post with a measure of disdain.
The attacks came in waves but the Green Army were gritty and resolute, keeping the Oranje scoreless for the guts of 40 minutes. Maria Verschoor did have it in the net but an umpire’s referral from Xiaoying Liu ruled that out for a prior foot, adding to their frustrations.
That encompassed seven penalty corners which were well dealt with but the rearguard action was eventually breached in the 49th minute when Caia van Maasakker slammed a shot onto the inside of the post.
It fell kindly for Pheninckx and she just about got by her SV Kampong club mate, the diving McFerran almost eating up the ground to keep out a relatively simple chance.
Within a minute, the third goal arrived as Xan de Waard stormed through from the right channel and her offload dropped into the path of Laurien Leurink who flicked in on her backhand.
And the scoreline was complete in fortuitous fashion as Matla shanked her drag-flick so much that it wrong-footed the Irish defence all ends up and dribbled down the middle.
It leaves Ireland with three points from two games ahead of Wednesday morning’s date with Germany (4.15am, Irish time)
Ireland: A McFerran, S McAuley, H McLoughlin, R Upton, L Tice, C Watkins, K Mullan, A O’Flanagan, D Duke, N Carroll
Subs: S McCay, H Matthews, L Holden, M Carey, S Torrans
Netherlands: J Koning, S Koolen, M Pheninckx, X de Waard, F Albers, L Welten, C van Maasakker, F Matla, L Stam, M van Geffen, E de Goede
Subs: L Leurink, M Keetels, M Verschoor, P Sanders, L Nunnink
Umpires: X Liu (CHN), M Meister (GER