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Lombi takes Argentina to title
July 02, 2007 12:03 IST
Veteran Jorge Lombi marked his international comeback with a hat-trick of penalty corner conversions as Argentina bounced back to beat New Zealand [Images] 3-2 to win the Champions Challenge men's hockey tournament in Boom on Sunday.
After a barren first-half, Hayden Shaw put New Zealand 2-0 ahead with two penalty corner conversions in the 44th and 49th minutes.
Argentina, with defeat looming large on their horizon, drew level with two conversions in the final five minutes through Lombi (65th, 67th) to force the game into extra-time. Lombi then netted the golden goal with another conversion five minutes into the first-half of extra-time.
Argentina, who had lost to Belgium in the league phase, thus, regained their spot in the elite six-nation Champions Trophy tournament after having finished sixth and last in 2005.
As in the past, it was Lombi who saved the day for Argentina with yet another brilliant all-round performance as a midfielder, schemer and penalty corner specialist.
Though Argentina failed to convert nine penalty corners in the second-half, Lombi came good with the 10th and 11th before finishing off with a golden goal, putting home the 12th.
Much of the first-half was thrust-and-parry affair with both the teams adopting a cautious approach and waiting for the opponents to commit.
There was hardly any goalmouth action, save a penalty corner for New Zealand as the ball was mostly confined to the midfield.
The Kiwi midfield did a fine job in containing the dangerous Argentine forwards, renowned for their lighting counter-attacks. On their part, Argentina defended in numbers and the Blacks Sticks struggled to find a way through.
However, after the teams crossed over without scoring, the game turned on its head with New Zealand receiving two penalty corners and Hayden Shaw converting both to give his team a 2-0 cushion by the 49th minute.
Argentina then swung into attack and forced four penalty corners, but could not convert any. The Kiwis defended well with goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex, bringing off good saves.
However, Argentina kept chipping away at the Kiwi defence that stood up to four more penalty corners before Lombi beat Pontifex twice in succession.
The Kiwis then launched a counter-attack with Shaw finding Phillip Burrows with a long scoop. Advancing into the circle, Burrows was tripped by defender Juan Gilardi, leading to a penalty corner that flowed into another.
But, Shaw failed with both even as the full-time hooter went, bringing extra-time into play.
The Kiwi hopes of qualifying for the Champions Trophy were effectively dashed when Lombi drag-flicked a penalty corner late in the first-half of the extra-time to set off celebrations on the pitch by an ecstatic Argentine players.
Ryan Archbald (New Zealand) was adjudged player of the tournament, while Shaw emerged top scorer with a tally of nine goals and Cedric Degreve (Belgium) was declared the best goalkeeper.
The final positions of teams: