Netherlands Zerbo-charge into final

NED v GER 1-0 (1-0)
Netherlands progressed to the final of the UniBet Eurohockey Championships through an efficient and composed performance against Germany.

The world number ones faced their toughest challenge of the tournament so far, as only a single goal in the first quarter separated the two sides.

Netherlands held the majority of possession throughout, but struggled to beat ‘keeper Yvonne Frank, who was at the heart of the resolute German defence.

Going into Sunday’s final, the Dutch face the winner of England and Spain, who play in tonight’s other semi-final.

Sjoerd Marijine’s team have looked in consummate control throughout the Championships, only conceding a single goal and scoring 23 of their own.

On reaching the UniBet EuroHockey Championship final, Margot van Geefen said:

“It was a tough game. Semi-finals are always exciting and close. But we won and are in the final again. Now it’s time to look ahead to winning the tournament.

“I hope we play England in the final, it would be amazing with the home crowd.”

The highly anticipated clash between the top ranked teams at the UniBet EuroHockey Championships started as a tentative affair.

Netherlands made the first move to edge towards the final of the tournament, as Frank was forced to make a number of saves, before the Oranje broke the deadlock in the sixth minute.

Ellen Hoog jinked past the German defence with a fine individual run to put Ginella Zerbo (6′) in on goal. The Dutch forward then displayed fine composure by slotting calmly past Frank.

Shortly after, Netherlands came close to grabbing a second through Valerie Magis – only for the German shot-stopper to block her reverse stick effort.

Against the run of play Germany earned two consecutive penalty corners but the Dutch blockers were able to race out to deny Charlotte Staphenhorst.

With minutes left in the first quarter, a penalty corner routine saw Maartje Paumen’s drag-flick effort rattle against the crossbar.

Holland continued to display their dominance in the second quarter and Hoog’s agility caused consistent problems for the German backline.

But Jamilon Mulder’s side held a resolute defence as the second quarter progressed, and Frank maintained her role as an authoritative figure in goal by denying attempts from Kelly Jonker and Maria Verschoor.

Germany applied a new-found intensity at the start of the second half, and Stapenhorst provided the main threat with effective play on the wing.

However, the Germans found themselves under intense pressure with five minutes left in the third quarter, as Hannah Kruger’s green card meant they were momentarily reduced to 10.

Two penalty corners for the Dutch followed, but Frank once again stood strong, saving powerful drag-flick shots from Lidewij Welten and captain Paumen.

Going into the final quarter, Germany still had every chance of progressing to the final, but they their inability to create opportunities in the Dutch circle was a point of concern.

Oranje came close to extending their lead, but were once again denied by the woodwork, as Zerbo’s deflected shot hit off the left-hand post.

In the 55th minute, Frank once again kept the Dutch forward line at bay, blocking shots from Verschoor and Marloes Keetels.

With four minutes remaining, Germany switched their goalkeeper for a kicking back, and the move narrowly failed to pay-off with Lydia Haase skewing the final chance of the game wide.

Speaking on a narrow defeat, Kristina Hillman said:

“There was always a chance to equalise in the game. If you lose a semi-final 1-0, it is always disappointing.

“In the last quarter we had a few shots at goal where we could have equalised. But now we have to focus on the next game and make sure we get a bronze medal.”