A scintillating first half performance from India; a resilient response from South Africa; a calm shoot-out performance from the Netherlands; and a first FIH Hockey Pro League point for France. This was how Day Two FIH Hockey Pro League action panned out in Potchefstroom, South Africa.
India men marched on with a 10-2 victory over South Africa, to add to the 5-0 victory they enjoyed over France the preceding day. The win moves them to third in the FIH Hockey Pro League table.
Not only did India play a scintillating form of passing and creative hockey but their goals were emphatic and clinical – not least the hat trick of penalty corners from Jugraj Singh, who was Player of the Match on his second appearance for the senior side.
India started at a breathtaking pace and South Africa were left chasing shadows as Harmanpreet opened the scoring within two minutes of the whistle.
All the damage was done in the opening quarter as two fantastically taken penalty corners were sent home by Jugraj and then Abhishek added a fourth goal.
Four more goals in the second quarter saw Jugraj seal his hat trick before Gursahibjit, Dilpreet and Mandeep all added to the score sheet.
After the half-time break South Africa emerged with a renewed sense of purpose and resilience and actually won the third quarter as they scored two goals to India’s one. First Daniel Bell shot home a fierce penalty corner strike and then a minute later Richard Pautz added to the tally. For India, Gursahibjit scored his second and India’s ninth.
On the sideline Graham Reid, India’s Head Coach, could be seen venting his annoyance as India seemed to take their collective foot off the gas. South Africa by comparison were finding space to push forwards, with Keenan Horne and Nicholas Spooner driving their team on and Dayaan Cassiem and Nqobile Ntuli causing problems with their speed in attack.
The fourth quarter saw India regain a little of their first half pace and Dilpreet scored India’s final goal to take his team into double figures.
After the game, Player of the Match Jugraj said: ‘Jugraj Singh: ‘I am really happy to have scored a hat trick. I was feeling good when I got the opportunity to take the penalty corners.’
In the second match France could have been forgiven for lacking confidence after their 5-0 loss to India the previous day. However, the men in blue came out to challenge the Netherlands and their aggressive approach and willingness to run at the Dutch paid dividends.
The first goal was scored by France, from the stick of Stanislaus Branicki. The Dutch team rallied and started to make forays into the French circle but it was one of those days when shots went wide, passes were misplaced and the French goalkeeper Arthur Thieffry was on top of his game.
The equaliser came in the second quarter when captain Thierry Brinkman was on hand to slam the ball home after some good build up by Jorrit Croon.
At this point, observers would have expected the Netherlands to ramp up their attack but for every period of Dutch domination, the French responded with their own attacking play.
The third quarter was goalless as was much of the fourth quarter. Then, the deadlock was broken by an absolute cracker of a goal from Koen Bijen. The Dutchman received an aerial in the centre of the French circle, pulled it under control and then volleyed it into the French net.
Unfazed, France went on the hunt again and won a penalty corner just a minute later. Victor Charlet stepped into the circle imperiously and struck the ball past Maurits Visser to take the match to shoot-out.
This is the first time in eight years that France have not lost to the Netherlands and they began the shoot-out well enough to believe they might win the bonus point. However, the Dutch are experienced and cool under pressure and after a shaky start they edged ahead. It came down to Joep de Mol to score the decisive winning goal and he duly obliged.
The result keeps Netherlands at the top of the FIH Pro League table and France move to fifth place.
Player of the Match Thierry Brinkman said: ‘That was not so good for us. The first quarter we were not aggressive enough in our 1v1s. We made too many mistakes both on the ball and defensively. There is a lot to improve for us. France played very well.’
On Saturday 12 February the FIH Hockey Pro League action continues with three further men’s matches and one women’s match. In Potchefstroom, France will take on India for a second time, while South Africa will hope to put in a stronger performance in their second encounter against the Netherlands.
Argentina will be making their first appearances in Season Three when both the men’s and women’s teams face Belgium in two matches over two days at the Cenard stadium in Buenos Aires.
FIH Men’s Hockey Pro League Results:
Wednesday 9 February 2022 – Potchefstroom (RSA)
RSA 2-10 India
Player of the Match: Jugraj Singh (IND)
Umpires: Annelize Rostron (RSA), Ayden Shrives (RSA) Wanri Venter (RSA – video umpire)
France 2-2 Netherlands (Netherlands won 4-2 in the shoot-out)
Player of the Match: Thierry Brinkman (NED)
Umpires: Wanri Venter (RSA), Sean Rapaport (RSA), Ayden Shrives (RSA – video umpire)
To see the complete FIH Hockey Pro League match schedule, please click here.