Photo Credits : Getty Images

A capacity crowd of 3500 flocked to the Cenard National High Performance Center in Buenos Aires to witness four of the best teams in world hockey take to the field, with Argentina’s men and women playing host to the dazzling Dutch sides on Match Day 16 of the inaugural FIH Pro League.

In the men’s match, Argentina trailed three times against the Netherlands before emerging 4-3 winners thanks to double strikes from Matias Paredes and Lucas Vila, giving Los Leones their first win of the FIH Pro League to climb up to fifth.

The men’s match saw action at both ends of the field as Olympic and Pan American champions Argentina (FIH World Ranking: 4) aimed to get a positive result against the Dutch (WR:3) European champions and World Cup silver medalists.

Los Leones – who were left frustrated on Friday (22 February) when a thunderstorm in Buenos Aires resulted in the cancellation of their FIH Pro League match against Germany – were arguably the better team until the eighth minute when Bjorn Kellerman showed persistence and skill to work his way along the Argentinean back line before moving past goalkeeper Juan Vivaldi and firing into an unguarded goal.

It was a lead that lasted just five minutes thanks to a wonderful deflection from 37-year-old striker Matias Paredes, who touched home a Juan Lopez’s cross with his back to goal to beat unsighted Dutch goalkeeper Sam van der Ven. However, the Dutch were soon back in front thanks to a penalty stroke from Jeroen Hertzberger, who made no mistake after Mirco Pruijser was fouled to put the Netherlands 2-1 ahead at quarter time.

A score-less second quarter was followed by an Argentine equaliser just 30 seconds into the third period; Paredes claiming his second of the match with a striker’s finish a split-second after Van der Ven dived to his right to deny Argentina attacker Lucas Vila.

However, another Hertzberger goal – this time firing a penalty corner into the bottom left corner – restored the Dutch advantage at 3-2.

Argentina dominated the latter stages of the third period and continued to put the Dutch defence under intense pressure throughout the fourth quarter.

With Dutch shot-stopper Van der Ven making numerous world class saves, the home side having a goal disallowed by an umpire video referral and nine unconverted penalty corner attempts, it seemed that it was not going to be Argentina’s day.

However, their luck finally changed thanks to two late goals from star man Vila, the first of which survived a video referral before the brilliant Argentine fired a penalty corner rebound into the roof of the Netherlands net to give the home side a valuable, richly deserved win on home soil.

It was better news for the Netherlands women, who moved top of the women’s standing after a battling 2-1 win against the home favourites, with Frederique Matla and Pien Sanders both finding the target.

The Netherlands (WR:1) dominated much of the opening period but found themselves behind against Argentina (WR:4) thanks to a stunning penalty corner effort from Silvina d’Elia, who produced an instinctive open-handed slap-shot to follow up her own initial strike to find the bottom corner and send the home fans wild.

The Dutch levelled the scores in the second quarter when Frederique Matla punished a defensive error from Von der Heyde, intercepting an attempted cross-field pass to race into the circle and slide the ball under the body of Argentina goalkeeper Belen Succi.

The third quarter was dominated almost from start to finish by Argentina but, despite hitting the frame of the goal from a penalty corner, it was the Dutch visitors who took a 2-1 lead into the fourth quarter. Pien Sanders was the scorer, lifting the ball over the onrushing Succi after being set up perfectly by Matla’s penalty corner pass.

The Netherlands hit the post and had a goal ruled out by a video referral in a fourth quarter that saw Argentina continue their fight for an equaliser until the very end. However, Sanders’ strike proved decisive as the Netherlands took a 2-1 win to move to the top of the standings.

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