FIH Pro League Women's Standings as of February 7

Feb. 07, 2019, 11:50 a.m. (ET)

Two weeks in, six games have been played and no one is perfect.

With the exception of three teams that haven't played their first official FIH Pro League match yet, no women's team has ticks in just the win column and that brings an added element of excitement! There has been hard fought matches, upsets, comebacks, lower ranked teams beating higher ranked, but that doesn't mean anything. The FIH Pro League has only just started but fans alike cannot wait for what is to come.


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In front of a sell-out crowd, No. 4 Argentina hosted both the men's and women's teams of No. 13 Belgium for a double-header contest in Cordoba. The opening game for the women saw Carla Rebecchi return to the international stage after a two-year absence and she made an immediate presence being named Player of the Match and helping Argentina claim a 2-0 victory over the Red Panthers. Early on Agustina Albertarrio rattled the frame of the Belgium goal before having a goal ruled back following an umpire video referral.

Argentina opened the scoring in the 12th minute off a close-range finish from Juileta Jankunas, through an excellent play from Rebecchi for the assist. Belgium improved in the second quarter and caused their higher-ranked opponents some difficulty as Anne-Sophie Weyns and Jill Boon were influential applying pressure on Argentina's defensive line. 

Las Leonas persisted again in the third quarter and while Belgium's goalkeeper Aisling D'Hooghe made some excellent saves, Argentina prevailed as a second goal was scored by Agustina Habif off a tap in on a penalty corner with three minutes remaining in the game.


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The second women's FIH Pro League game between No. 6 New Zealand and No. 1 The Netherlands was a close one, as the Black Sticks held their own against the World and European champions for long periods of the contest.

With the defenses of both nations excelling, clear goal-scoring opportunities were kept to a minimum. The Oranje had a high penalty corner strike correctly ruled out early in the game, while Olivia Merry’s speculative backhand effort rattled the side of The Netherlands' goal in the second quarter before Dutch striker Frederique Matla fired one over the crossbar just before halftime.

The Netherlands' goalkeeper Josine Koning made an important save midway through the third quarter before her team finally broke the deadlock thanks to Maartje Krekelaar, who slipped the ball past New Zealand goalkeeper Grace O’Hanlon from close range in the 38th minute.

New Zealand thought they had found an equalizer early in the fourth quarter, but Brooke Neal’s penalty corner was ruled out by the video umpire who spotted an obstruction just as she fired toward goal. Black Sticks captain Stacey Michelsen became an influential figure in the latter stages, but despite her brilliance the equalizer could not be found as the Dutch battled to a hard-earned away victory.


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After falling to Argentina in their first FIH Pro League match, No. 13 Belgium responded with a victory against host No. 6 New Zealand.

The Red Panthers were impressive in the opening quarter, causing numerous problems. New Zealand goalkeeper Sally Rutherford was forced into action many times, and even she was helpless when Alexia ’T Serstevens rattled the inside of the post with a speculative backhand effort at the end of the period.

Belgium was arguable the better side in the second quarter, although New Zealand had the better of scoring opportunities. Olivia Merry shot a penalty corner effort wide of the target, which Amy Robinson and Sam Charlton also had very good chances but failed to threaten the goal of Red Panther's goalkeeper Aisling D’Hooghe.

D’Hooghe was the busier of the two goalkeepers in a third quarter dominated by the hosts, who won five penalty corners in the first seven minutes after the break but failed to make the most of their opportunities. New Zealand's Kirsten Pearce smashed a vicious backhand strike toward goal in the latter stages of the quarter, but the effort was comfortably pushed away by D’Hooghe’s left glove to keep the score at 0-0 going into the final frame.

 

The final quarter could have gone either way, with Belgium's Louise Versavel seeing a goal-bound effort inadvertently deflected wide by the stick of teammate Alix Gerniers before a rapid New Zealand counter-attack was blazed over the Red Panthers' cross-bar by Kelsey Smith. The final five minutes were packed full of drama, especially for Belgium's striker Jill Boon. The captain had a glorious chance to finish the contest when a foul on Versavel resulted in a penalty stroke, but Boon’s weak shot was saved by New Zealand’s goalkeeper Grace O’Hanlon. However, Boon more than made up for her missed penalty stroke when she netted a sensational winner with less than two minutes of the game remaining, showing stunning reflexes to volley Versavel’s thunderous pass into the roof of the net to give her team a fine victory away from home. 



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A sell-out crowd of 5,500 at Melbourne’s State Hockey and Netball Centre in Melbourne, Australia saw a very exciting match up between No. 3 Australia and No. 1 The Netherlands. Although it contained fewer goals than it's preceding men's match, it certainly was not short of excitement. The Hockeyroos had been beaten by The Netherlands in a shoot-out in the semifinals of last year’s Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup London 2018, which was followed by a 5-1 loss in the November’s Champions Trophy final in China.

The Netherlands – coached by legendary former Australia international and two-time FIH Player of the Year Alyson Annan - were on top in the opening stages but did not make the most of their chances, a theme that would continue throughout the match. An early penalty corner opportunity went to waste before Eva de Goede’s backhand strike went high and wide of the target.

The hosts were excellent in the second quarter and scored what proved to be the only goal of the game in the 21st minute, with Jane Claxton working her way into the circle from the right before finishing at the second attempt to give the Hockeyroos a surprise lead.

Speaking in a halftime interview , Annan said that she wanted her team ‘to get the simple things right’ in the second and third quarters. While The Netherlands certainly improved after the break, Australia's defensive players were at the top of their game. Central defender and captain Jodie Kenny made numerous crucial tackles, while goalkeeper Rachael Lynch produced some extraordinary saves to keep the Oranje off the score-sheet. Margot van Geffen and Ginella Zerbo were both denied by incredible blocks by Lynch, touching the former’s shot away from the top corner with her stick before making a diving save to deny a late equalizer. Lynch’s Player of the Match performance sealed a fine victory for the Paul Gaudoin’s Hockeyroos, giving them the perfect start to their FIH Pro League campaign.


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The fifth FIH Pro League was a thriller as No. 4 Argentina hosted Pan-American rivals No. 12 USA in Cordoba. It proved to be yet another fascinating encounter, with USA pushing Carlos Retegui’s team every step of the way before suffering defeat in the shoot-out.

USA, coached by World Cup and Olympic gold medal-winning former Netherlands international Janneke Schopman, were put under considerable pressure by their illustrious opponents in the early stages of the match. Veteran attacker Carla Rebecchi flashed a backhand shot just wide of the target, drawing a big gasp from the crowd packed stadium. Despite Argentina’s early promise, it was the USA who took the lead thanks to a moment of magic from Mackenzie Allessie. The 17-year-old, playing only her third international match, picked up an attempted clearance from Las Leonas' goalkeeper Belen Succi before calmly scoring at a tight angle.

Things got even better for USA in the second period when they doubled their lead thanks to a wonderful counter-attack, with Jill Funk causing havoc down the left before firing the ball across the goal for the onrushing Lauren Moyer, who scored from close range. While both of USA's goals had come against the run of play, it was a score-line earned through grit, determination and tactical discipline, with defender Julia Young and goalkeeper Kealsie Robles doing their very best to cancel out the potent Argentinian attacking threat.

A goalless but thoroughly entertaining third quarter saw Argentina captain Delfina Merino go close before Rebecchi had a goal ruled back as her strike clipped an Argentinean foot before going in. However, the influential Rebecchi had a sensational individual contribution in the fourth quarter. The 34-year-old striker put a goal back after intercepting deep and briskfully moving past USA goalkeeper Robles into an open goal. Rebecchi then played a crucial part in Argentina’s equalizer, sending a flicked penalty corner effort toward goal for Merino to touch home, sparking utter jubilation in the stands.

The match finished 2-2, meaning that a shoot-out was required to decide who was going to take the bonus point. It went the way of the host nation, who netted through Delfina Merino, Silvina d’Elia and Lucina von der Heyde before Belen Succi settled a 3-1 win by denying Nicole Woods with a diving stick save.


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No. 3 Australia came into their meeting against No. 13 Belgium confident about their chances of success, boosted by Saturday’s notable 1-0 win against world champions The Netherlands. However, the Red Panthers had good reason to feel optimistic following Friday’s 1-0 triumph against the New Zealand Black Sticks in Auckland.

There was little to choose between the hosts and the European silver medalists in the opening quarter, with neither side able to create any clear-cut goal-scoring opportunities. Australia attacker Grace Stewart had a half-chance from a tight angle but could not direct her shot on target, while Belgium were intelligent in their play, doing everything in their power to control the pace and tempo of the game in the hot playing conditions.

The match remained evenly balanced in the second quarter, with both teams equal across the board in terms of possession, circle entries and shots on goal. A clever deflection from Belgium’s Jill Boon was arguably the best chance of the period, her subtle touch changing the trajectory of the ball but not enough to catch out Hockeyoos goalkeeper Rachael Lynch. 

Speaking in his halftime broadcast interview, Red Panthers Head Coach Niels Thijssen indicated that he was not entirely satisfied with his team’s performance and was looking for improvement after the break. He got exactly what he wished for, with Belgium taking the game to hosts and eventually being rewarded when they took the lead through a brilliantly executed penalty corner. A quick pass at the top of the circle allowed Michelle Struijk time and space to drill a low shot into the goal, putting the Red Panthers into 1-0 lead.

 

Belgium doubled their advantage early in the fourth quarter thanks to a backhand strike from Louise Versavel, who found the gap between the post and replacement Hockeyroos goalkeeper Ashlee Wells. Versavel’s strike proved to be crucial, with Australia putting a goal back through Brooke Peris but being unable to find an equalizer thanks to numerous exceptional saves from brilliant Belgian goalkeeper Aisling D’Hooghe.