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Australia’s men and women both recorded important wins to maintain their high placings in the FIH Pro League standings, overcoming the respective challenges of Spain and USA at the Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre.

A fourth quarter strike from Daniel Beale gave Australia’s men a narrow 2-1 triumph over Spain to record their third successive victory in the FIH Pro League, with the Kookaburras now starting to gather real momentum following a patchy start to this competition.


The opening quarter of the men’s match between Australia (FIH World Ranking: 2) and Spain (FIH World Ranking: 9) was dominated by the Kookaburras, although clear-cut scoring opportunities were few and far between thanks to a disciplined defensive performance from a Red Sticks team playing their first match away from home after some fine performances in Valencia.

In-form Australia attacker Jacob Anderson had the only real chance of the period when he was picked out by a disguised pass from Tom Craig, but Anderson’s attempted backhand effort failed to test goalkeeper Mario Garin.

The first mark on the scoreboard arrived midway through the second period when Lachlan Sharp pounced from close range to flick high into the Spanish net.

It was a goal that sparked a near immediate reaction from a Spanish side that always looked dangerous on the counter-attack, with Pau Quemada touching home a close-range equaliser after Marc Bolto’s shot squeezed between the pads of Australian shot-stopper Tyler Lovell.

The European visitors could easily have taken a lead into both half time and the third quarter breaks, with Joan Tarres hitting the post at the end of the second quarter before Lovell produced an outrageous third quarter save from Xavi Lleonart’s deflection, with the goalkeeper changing direction and flicking out a stick to stick to stop the ball sailing into the top left corner.

Those missed opportunities proved costly two minutes into the final quarter when Australia scored the winner through Daniel Beale, who made a late run across the face of the Spanish goal to fire home a pass from Dylan Wotherspoon.

Australia (WR:3) came into their women’s meeting against USA (WR:12) as heavy favourites and their dominance in the opening minutes of the first quarter against the Americans certainly justified that label.

However, the team coached by Paul Gaudoin could not translate their supremacy into goals and found themselves trailing 1-0 when Dannielle Grega weaved her way into the circle before her attempted pass somehow crept past Australia goalkeeper Ashlee Wells and into the bottom corner.

It was a goal that seemed to come out of nowhere, but laid the foundations for a terrific defensive display by a team that had suffered a 5-0 home defeat at the hands of world champions the Netherlands in their recent home FIH Pro League fixture in Winston-Salem.

USA goalkeeper Jessica Jecko was at the centre of everything, producing numerous world class saves as Australia – the only team to have beaten the top-ranked Netherlands in the Pro League – threw everything at their opponents in search of a leveller.

Arguably Jecko’s best save came from an Australian penalty corner, with the 24-year-old diving low to her right to tip Jodie Kenny’s powerful drag-flick around the post.

Kenny finally broke American resistance one minute into the fourth quarter with an unstoppable penalty corner drag-flick to Jecko’s opposite side, with the winning goal arriving six minutes later from what is becoming a very reliable source.

Mariah Williams scored her third goal in her last four matches with a brilliant strike on the turn, crashing a ferocious effort that clipped the pads of Jecko but was only ever destined to hit the backboard.


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