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Spain rally to hold Holland

Anand Philar | March 05, 2004 23:20 IST
Last Updated: March 06, 2004 10:49 IST

Olympic champions The Netherlands escaped with a 2-2 draw against Spain in a crucial Pool A match in the men's Olympic hockey qualifying tournament in Madrid on Friday.

The Spaniards looked the gift horse in the mouth as they wasted a penalty stroke and a couple of sitters, while the Dutch, leading 2-0 by the 23rd minute, must surely thank their stars for coming out with a point instead of nothing.

In a game that provided plenty of spills and thrills to the packed gathering, the Dutch scored through Rob Reckers (7th minute) and Nick Meijer (21st). But Spain retaliated in style and Santiago Freixa, their most talented forward, found the goal twice, in the 35th and 52nd minutes.

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Both Spain and Holland share the top spot in the pool with seven points apiece with two wins and a draw.

Spain, who had beaten Holland in the recent European championship semi-finals, could have wrapped up the game, but wasted their best chance when Rodrigo Garza pushed wide from a penalty stroke award midway through the first-half.

The Dutch appeared tactically superior in the initial stages when they kept possession and controlled the flow. Their crisp passing and positional play gave little chance for Spain to get into the game.

And sure enough, Reckers put the Dutch in front following a terrible goalkeeping error by Bernardino Herrera, who failed to clear an innocuous hit from outside the circle. Reckers pounced on the clearance to score.

A little later, Meijer put home a long hit from Rob Drikx and the Dutch were up and flying.

However, the Spaniards gradually came into the game with a series of their patented counter-attacks.

A stick check on Eduard Tubau led to a penalty stroke, but a nervous Garza pushed wide off the post.

The Spaniards persisted and seconds before the half-time hooter earned a penalty-corner which Freixa converted with a lovely flick to the top of the net.

After crossing over, Spain continued to press and their cause was helped when Taeke Taekema was sent off on a yellow card after bringing down Tubau.

Spain seized the opportunity to score the equalizer as Freixa found the boards from Tubau's pass following a right-wing move.

The story would be incomplete without a mention of the two goalkeepers, Guus Vogels of Holland and Herrera, who pegged the scoring to just four.

Tom Bertram gives Great Britain victory

A 35th minute penalty-corner goal by Tom Bertram carried Great Britain to a 1-0 victory over Japan in a Pool A match of the men's Olympic hockey qualifying tournament in Madrid on Friday.

Britain, who had lost both their earlier matches, thus opened their points tally while Japan have only one point from a 4-4 draw with Poland.

In a match where the ball swung from end to end, Japan had more possession, but could not convert the few chances that came their way.

Britain too threatened to score more than once, but Japanse goalkeeper Jun Takahashi, like his counterpart Simon Mason, performed admirably.

South Africa crushes Poland

South Africa, lifted by four goals from Greg Nicol, gave yet another twist to the pool A script with a crushing 6-0 win against Poland.

The result meant that Spain and Holland share the top spot in pool A with seven points apiece, followed by Poland (4), South Africa and Great Britain (3 each), and Japan (1).

The South Africans, unlucky to have lost 1-2 to Spain, played an inspired first-half during which they scored all their goals through Greg Nicol (5th, 13th, 34th and 70th), Wayne Denne (26th) and Reece Basson (50th).

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