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September 16, 2000
Dutch do for Britain 4-2The Rediff Team
Netherlands, the defending gold medallists kicked off the hockey action against Great Britain, with an action-packed encounter that saw fast, furious, end-to-end attacking play.
The fun began almost immediately as the 24-yar-old Teun de Noorjier, widely regarded the best in the world at this point in time, displayed his incredible footspeed to harry the British defence. The rest of the Dutch attack seemed to swivel around the youngster, with the team building moves and looking to de Noorjier to provide the finishing touches.
One such move saw Mark Bierns, off a free hit, find de Noorjier on the run with a superb pass, setting up the strike which the Dutch forward executed to perfection. 1-0.
During the first 15 minutes, the Dutch had most of the possession as the British, seemingly bewildered by de Noorjier's speed and stick-craft, looked to regroup. Just about the only time Britain found itself in the game during this period came when Sharpe raced into the danger area, then reversed to Bertram who put Pearn, playing his 100th international, through. A check by the Dutch defence earned the free hit, but Pearn's strike whistled just over the goal.
Pearn, however, made amends quickly when he pounced on a loose ball in the 18th minute, weaved his way through the defence and slammed home to give Britain the equaliser.
Britain almost surrendered the advantage less than a minute later, when de Nooijer produced yet another of his electric runs, this time soloing half the length of the field before taking a shot at goal. Simon Mason in the British citadel brought off a fine save, to keep the scores deadlocked going in to half-time.
The second half produced a reprise of the action-oriented play that had characterised the first session. The surging Dutch offense forced an early penalty corner, taken by Jacques Brinkman. The shot, deflecting off a British defender, reverted to Brinkman who fired on the run, to put the Dutch 2-1 up.
That lead lasted just minutes, though, as a breakaway attack launched from deep inside British territory saw the ball being played to Craig Parnham who, with just the goalkeeper to beat, made no mistake.
That quick British strike appeared to cause some panic in the Dutch side, and there was uncharacteristic loose play from the defending titlists that allowed the British to dominate for a while. Britain had a glorious opportunity to go into the lead for the first time in the game, when a penalty was awarded for tripping inside the zone. Calum Giles took the shot -- and flubbed it horribly, giving Dutch goal-tender Ronald Jansen a chance to palm it away.
That proved to be all the breathing space the Dutch needed -- the wave of attacks started afresh, de Noorjier seemed to have picked up a fresh set of legs, and Britain was back in its own half, defending dourly. That kind of thing takes its toll and, in this instance, what resulted was a penalty corner as the ball hit a defender's foot. Brinkman moved into position for his speciality, swept the ball to van Pelt, from there to Stephen Veen, for the Dutch skipper to ram home on the run, leaving the British goalie no chance.
Desperate defending also earned David Hacker a yellow card for tripping. Already in dire straits, Britain fell further with Hacker's sending off, and the Dutch, who appeared for a while to have decided that they had done enough for the day, capitalised through Stephan Veen, the Dutch skipper slamming a fierce hit past the British goalie at the end of a furious passing bout.
That goal, in the dying moments, sealed it for the Dutch, to the delight of a large contingent of supporters who had turned up to egg the gold medallists on. While Britain, grossly mismatched, fought valiantly, they were outgunned by the champions who, on form, look the side to beat.
One thing for sure, de Noojier on his display today is likely to cause opposing teams, and their coaches, much sleepless nights before the event is done.
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