Germany defeats Spain for men's field hockey gold

Aug. 23, 2008, 12:14 p.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Germany's Christopher Zeller struggled on penalty corners throughout the Olympics, but he broke out of his funk to score the only goal in a 1-0 win over Spain in the men's field hockey final Saturday.

"It was no special thing," Zeller said of the goal. "The whole tournament, they (penalty corners) weren't good for me. Now, it was the right time to make the goal. Fortunately, we made it."

Zeller scored in the 19th minute, and captain Timo Wess led a suffocating defense that handled the rest.

The Germans had last won gold in 1992. Spain added to the silver medals it won in 1980 and 1996.

Zeller said the defensive effort was the key.

"I think the whole team worked together," he said. "We work as one team. There are no individual players. I think that was the key - everybody fighting for the other teammates."

Germany, the reigning world champion, nearly increased its 1-0 lead over Spain midway through the second half. Spanish goalkeeper Francisco Cortes denied Matthias Witthaus, and another German shot hit the left goal post.

Spain nearly tied the match, but Santiago Freixa's shot on a penalty corner with about 10 minutes to play sailed wide left.

Freixa had been the hero on Thursday. He scored on a penalty corner in the 68th minute to give Spain a 3-2 win over Australia.

Spain's Pol Amat said his team knew it would need to make the most of its chances to win.

"We knew what we had to do when Germany were over us," he said. "I think always when you are not good on penalty corners, you lose. We had enough corners today to score."

Spain's comeback attempt took a hit when Sergi Enrique was sent off with a yellow card in the 63rd minute.

Now, Germany has claimed its ninth field hockey medal, including those won as West Germany.

"It is beautiful and crazy," Wess said. "We played our best hockey tonight."

The Germans nearly didn't get the chance to win the gold. They won in sudden-death penalty stroke play against the Netherlands on Thursday.

It was Germany's second shutout victory over Spain during the tournament. The Germans shut out Spain on Aug. 17. Those were Germany's only two shutouts during the tournament.

"I don't know how often it happens that you play a big country like Spain, and for them to not score," German coach Jochel Heimpen said. "We accomplished that twice."

The fact that it was a replay of a poor offensive performance in the previous matchup bothered Spain.

"We could not find solutions to score goals around their defense, and we did the same mistakes as we did in the last game," Freixa said. "But we tried until the end, we all fought to the end."

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