The Netherlands will meet Belgium in the final of the 2017 Rabo EuroHockey Championships both winning through courtesy of a single goal each at a rocking Wagener Stadium.
Women’s semi-final: Netherlands 1 England 0 (0-0)
Marloes Keetels’ 49th minute cracker saw the Netherlands end England’s reign as European champions, reversing the result between the sides from 2013’s semi-final and the 2015 final.
She was found by a lovely Laurien Leurink slip-pass to thud home, claiming the laurels from a high tempo tie in front of 10,000 screaming, predominantly Dutch, fans in the Wagener Stadium.
Keetels said afterwards: “It was amazing, the team played very well. We had to be patient, the English attacked very well, they also defended well and so we are delighted that the goal finally came.”
The first half ended scoreless with the Dutch sitting in a counter-attack formation, looking to exploit their pace, while England held more of the ball.
Netherlands v England – Women's Rabo EuroHockey Championships – Match Highlights pic.twitter.com/Dxnj2XitbM
— EuroHockey (@eurohockeyorg) August 24, 2017
It took a while to rev up in intensity, the Dutch winning an early corner which Shona McCallin cleared off the line, while Alex Danson drew a great stop from Anne Veenendaal on the run.
England suffered a blow when Susannah Townsend, in the 25th minute, jarred her footing with no one around and went off in serious discomfort. It preceded a flurry of chances at either end.
First, Danson won a corner after a shot on the spin. Margo van Geffen charged it down. Frederique Matla’s outstanding run led to a Kelly Jonker pass that Maddie Hinch blocked well.
Then, Sophie Bray almost got on the scoreboard when Zoe Shipperley’s thunderous cross was tipped just wide. A Giselle Ansley drag and a reset corner on the half-time hooter closed out the first half hour.
The third quarter saw a pattern change with the Dutch the ones to make the play. Another Matla run wreaked havoc while a fourth English corner was blocked. Hollie Webb was becoming a key player for England, making two big interventions to stymie the home threat and keep it locked at 0-0 until the 48th minute.
Kelly Jonker was the creator, drifting left before slipping under her arm to Laura Nunnink. Her shot was charged down by Hinch off her line. It bounced into the path of Laurien Leurink who produced a clever pass out of Hinch’s range to Keetels who slammed into the net.
And it proved enough for the Oranje as they closed out the result without too much concern.
Keetels went on to hail the “extra man” support before speaking about her role as captain. “I really had to grow into the role because I had previously been in the background, to learn a lot and to make some mistakes. The team is very supportive and we have enough experience and its going well.”
And how about the surprise final opponents Belgium?
“We have to score more than the first time around. In the final, they will attack more; they have to to win so it will be a whole different game from the pool.”
Netherlands – England
49’ Marloes Keetels 1-0
Umpires: L Delforge (BEL), M Meister (GER)
Germany 0 Belgium 1 (0-1)
Jill Boon’s 28th minute goal put Belgium in dreamland as they reached the final of the European Championships, setting up the biggest date in their women’s national team’s hockey history in Saturday’s final.
She got the perfect touch to Barbara Nelen’s cross from the wing, lifting the ball up and out of reach of Julia Ciupka.
Belgium had already shown their teeth, winning a couple of penalty corners and putting up to Germany at every turn. The Germans, for their part, had a goal disallowed for a foot when Anna Schroder battled through the circle, slipping to Franzisca Hauke who rolled home.
Germany v Belgium – Women's EuroHockey Championships – Match Highlights pic.twitter.com/UVo2Q4Z25a
— EuroHockey (@eurohockeyorg) August 24, 2017
The Olympic bronze medalists came within inches of equalising, too, when Schroder hit the outside of the goal after Aisling d’Hooghe saved a Charlotte Stapenhorst penalty corner.
Belgium, though, kept winning corners – eventually running up eight of them – which they could not capitalise on to place Germany under more and more pressure as the game became increasingly physical.
As is the German spirit, they battled with the way to the end, earning two corners of their own in the closing two minutes. Nike Lorenz saw one charged down before Stapenhorst had a last-ditch effort also saved to preserve the clean sheet and that precious place in the final.
Barbara Nelen summed up the mood: “It’s amazing, the first time we did it, the first medal in a European Cup. We wrote history today and I am super proud of this team.
“We had nothing to lose and Germany had to come out and play. We hadn’t produced yet in the tournament and we finally played offensively. We changed our tactics and it worked and we have a final to look forward to.
“It’s the final of the Olympics at 8pm so we are going to play one of the best in the world. For us, it’s amazing, playing in front of a crowd of 10,000 people so super happy.”
Germany – Belgium
28’ Jill Boon 1-0
Umpires: A Unka (NZL), S Wilson (SCO)