(Match Report by FIH) – A 2-1 away victory over Olympic champions Argentina has sent Australia’s Kookaburras to the top of the men’s FIH Pro League standings, with Argentina’s women taking a bonus point by winning the shoot-out after their match against the Hockeyroos finished all square in Buenos Aires.
The points were shared in the women’s match, which finished with the scores locked at 1-1 before Argentina outgunned Australia in the shoot-out to take the bonus point.
Both teams remain in the all-important top four positions, with Argentina second behind the Netherlands and Australia fourth behind Belgium.
The top four finishers in the FIH Pro League will secure tickets to June’s FIH Pro League Grand Final in Amsterdam and also the FIH Olympic qualifiers, which take place later this year.
Australia men moved to the top of the FIH Pro League thanks to a battling performance to earn a 2-1 win over Los Leones.
Blake Govers and Corey Weyer were on target for the Kookaburras before Maico Casella reduced the deficit with a fourth quarter goal that proved only a consolation.
Belgium sit behind Australia in second place, with Great Britain third and the Netherlands in fourth.
Defeat for Argentina leaves them fifth in the standings.
It was second versus fourth in the women’s fixture as Argentina looked to continue a sensational run of form which saw them win six successive FIH Pro League matches coming into today’s meeting against Australia (WR:3).
Las Leonas were 1-0 winners of the reverse fixture in Sydney thanks to a solitary strike from Delfina Merino, a player absent for the rematch against a Hockeyroos team that are still the only team to have claimed an FIH Pro League victory over reigning world champions and league leaders the Netherlands.
The hosts made a lethargic start in their attempt to close the gap on the Dutch table-toppers, falling behind just two minutes into the match when Maddy Fitzpatrick’s high drag-flick hit the roof of Argentina’s net, with goalkeeper Maria Mutio getting a touch but unable to deflect the ball away to safety.
However, the home fans had something to smile about in the second quarter when Silvina D’Elia struck an emphatic equaliser, bringing great reward to the penalty corner won by Player of the Match Julieta Jankunas.
Eugenia Trinchinetti missed Argentina’s best opportunity of the third quarter when she failed to get a touch in front of an open goal, with the Hockeyroos successfully absorbing long spells of pressure from the hosts to ensure that they would at least take a point from away from their trip to South America.
However, it was the hosts who took the bonus point with a 3-1 win in the shoot-out, with D’Elia, Carla Rebecchi and Jankunas scoring the goals and goalkeeper Cristina Cosentino coming off the bench to only concede once.
Australia’s men (WR:2) had climbed the table before they had even set foot on the Buenos Aires turf, moving from third to second due Great Britain’s shoot-out defeat at the hands of Spain in London earlier in the day.
A victory over Argentina (WR:4) would see them leap-frog Belgium and take top spot, but defeating the Olympic champions – who started the day fifth in the FIH Pro League standings – in their own back yard is easier said than done.
There was little to choose between to two teams in the early exchanges, but the Kookaburras – 3-2 winners of the reverse fixture – slowly but surely began to take control of the contest before opening the scoring on the stroke of quarter-time thanks to trade-mark penalty corner drag-flick from Blake Govers.
That advantage was almost doubled three minutes before half time when Jake Whetton lifted the ball over onrushing Leones goalkeeper Juan Vivaldi only to watch it bounce agonisingly wide of the right post.
There were chances at either end in the third quarter, with Vivaldi denying both Daniel Beale and Govers in quick succession before Argentina’s Martin Ferreiro had a penalty corner goal ruled out by a video referral.
The decisive blow arrived in the 40th minute when Corey Weyer finished from close range after great work from Lachlan Sharp, leaving Argentina needing at least two goals in the final quarter if they were going to salvage anything from the contest.
Maico Casella gave Los Leones hope eight minutes from the end when he somehow managed to get a stick on a fierce pass into the circle.
However, despite replacing Vivaldi with an outfield player in the final minutes, the Argentinean comeback failed to materialise.
The FIH Pro League continues on Friday 10 and Sunday 12 May, with USA’s women hosting the national teams of Australia and Argentina at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.