Las Leonas roar to the top of the table; Argentina men win bonus point after hard-fought draw with Spain

Argentina women moved to the top of the FIH Hockey Pro League as they continued their 100 percent winning ways in this season’s competition. Las Leonas defeated Spain for the second time in consecutive days, with the only goal a lovely reverse stick strike from Agustina Albertarrio. In the men’s match, Spain will feel aggrieved to have only taken a single point after they dominated play but couldn’t find a winning goal in the 60 minutes of match play. 

Spain vs Argentina (women) – Estadio Betero, Valencia (ESP)

The first quarter of the second encounter between Spain and Argentina women continued in much the same vein as the first match. Both teams were working hard but the final shot at goal was not forthcoming. Agustina Albertarrio will not want to replay her first effort at scoring as she received the ball beautifully but then her strike was just wide of an empty net.

For Spain, the return of Georgina Oliva to the squad was having an almost instant impact as the midfielder created several attacking opportunities for her team with some pin-point sliding passes around the Argentina circle.

Argentina was also showing some beautiful passing movements. In particular, Sofia Toccalino’s threaded ball to Julieta Jankunas was an example of a perfectly weighted pass. 

In the second quarter Player of the Match, Maria Granatto was on the attack instantly but Maria Tello in the Spanish goal was on hand to smother the opportunity. 

The Granatto show continued as Victoria Granatto won her team the first penalty corner of the match. While that opportunity came to nothing, the younger Granatto sister is fast becoming a real danger player within a team full of talented playmakers.

Spain also began to create scoring opportunities as Crista Cosentino in the Argentina goal was called on to make two brilliant saves in quick succession from shots from Sara Barrios and Marta Segu

The deadlock was broken within the first 90 seconds of the second half. Agustina Albertarrio, atoning for her earlier miss, received the ball and then showed her tremendous power and skill to create space to fire a reverse stick high past Maria Tello. 

Spain was now left chasing the game for the second day running. Adrian Lock’s team increased the intensity to an even higher level and the pressure saw some opportunities open up in the Argentina defensive circle. However, this was the day that Agustina Gorzelany was impeccable in defense and, at crucial times, she stepped forward to steer the ball to safety. 

The best chances for Spain fell to Sara Barrios, who had at least three good scoring opportunities but was unable to find the back of the net.

A frenetic final three minutes saw Argentina win two penalty corners. Agustina Gorzelany fired two cracking shots at the Spanish goal but a brave stick stop thwarted the first attempt and a good save by Tello on the second strike, kept the rampant Argentina attack at bay.

Speaking after the match Player of the Match, Maria Granatto said: ‘The game was very hard but we played very well and we are happy to get the points. This award is for the team as always and I am happy with the win.’

Spain’s Alejandro Torres-Quevedo said: ‘We are working towards the World Cup so we are just starting. We worked hard, and we played well but there are lots of areas for improvement. There is a good vibe among the team.’

Today’s results mean that Argentina has moved to the top of the FIH Pro League ahead of India. Spain remains in the seventh position. 

Spain vs Argentina (men) – Estadio Betero, Valencia (ESP)

The natural playing styles of these two teams suggested this could be a goal-fest, In fact, it was the complete opposite. The opening quarter saw Spain prevent Argentina from getting any hold of the game as the host team set up a strong and impenetrable press that the Argentinians just couldn’t find a way through.

With a few seconds left in the quarter, Spain won a penalty corner – their first over both matches – but Marc Recasens was unable to convert the shot. Earlier Joan Tarres had been unable to get any power behind his shot at the Argentina goal.

The second half saw much of the same when it came to goalmouth action. Both sides played some nice interchanges within the midfield but there was very little in the way of scoring opportunities.

With five minutes of the half remaining, Spain started to pile on the pressure. Gerard Clapes made a great interception and drove the ball into the circle. Only some great smothering of the ball by Argentina’s Tomas Santiago in goal kept the ball from the back of the net as Jose Basterra tried to steer the ball into the net. 

The deadlock came close to being broken when an unrelenting period of Spanish pressure won a penalty corner, which struck the Argentina post player on the knee. A penalty stroke was awarded but the ensuing shot from Marc Miralles hit the post and so the Argentina team breathed a sigh of relief. 

The remainder of the third saw Spain gain momentum as Argentina lost two players for green and yellow cards. Frustration was playing its part in Argentina’s inability to string passes together and create meaningful attacking moves. 

That all changed in the 50th minute when, almost from nowhere, Argentina’s Maico Casella scored a fabulous goal as he ran onto a cross by Lucas Martinez into the Spanish circle and deflected the ball past the goalkeeper. This was Argentina’s first serious attempt at the Spanish goal to that point of the match.

For a second the Spanish players’ heads were down as they reflected on all the possession they had enjoyed to that point with no reward. Their upbeat energy was quickly restored when former Argentina international Joaquin Menini scored his first goal for Spain; the lax defense of Argentina allowed him to run into the circle and smash it home. 

The match finished 1-1, and so the teams went into a shoot-out situation to decide where the bonus point was going.

The shoot-out itself was all drama as Argentina looked to be heading to a walkover before the Spanish team rallied and took the shoot-out to sudden death. Just as the teams had proven inseparable in the match, the sudden death went to 24 attempts. Outstanding final saves by Tomas Santiago in the Argentina goal, plus a cool finish from Nicolas Keenan, and Argentina took the bonus point. 

Player of the Match, Tomas Santiago (ARG), said: ‘I am happy to get the two points but we have a lot of things to improve so we have a week to work on these things before we play Germany.’

Spain’s captain Marc Miralles said: ‘I think we played well, but we need to win these games. If we want to be a better team then we must make certain in these games.’

Today’s results mean that Argentina is now in second place in the FIH Pro league behind India. Spain remains in eighth place. 

The FIH Hockey Pro League action continues on Tuesday 17 May at Estadio Betero, Valencia when Argentina women face China and Spain men play host to France. The women’s match takes place at 13:30 (CET), with the men’s match beginning at 11:30 (CET).

FIH Hockey Pro League – 15th May 2022

Estadio Betero, Valencia (ESP)

Result: Women’s Match 29
Spain 0, Argentina 1
Player of the Match: Maria Granatto (ARG)

Result: Men’s Match 37
Spain 1, Argentina 1 (Argentina win shoot out 6-5 to win bonus point) 
Player of the Match: Tomas Santiago (ARG)

Credit: FIH