Pool A: Netherlands 3 Spain 1 (2-0)
Lidewij Welten made a breathtaking return to action as she scored one and set up two, lighting up the Wagener Stadium on the opening night of the Rabo EuroHockey Championships.
Hers was a fitting performance to christen the new stadium in front of a capacity crowd. They were made to wait to see their home heroes eventually win against Spain, though, as thunder and lightning caused a lengthy delay.
Early on, the sides felt each other out in the first quarter with the Dutch winning a corner and Welten – on her comeback from injury – showed some glimpses of her immense talent, breaking from deep.
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Spain had a few fleeting half-chances and a couple of dangerous turnovers but nothing to fully threaten Anne Veenendaal’s goal.
The Dutch, though, forced the agenda as time went on and got their breakthrough in the 25th minute from their second penalty corner.
The injection and stop were far from perfect but Ireen van den Assem tidied things up and launched a powerful push wide of the right post where Welten was waiting to deflect past Maria Ruiz.
Soon after, Berta Bonastre departed with a nasty facial injury as an inviting Spanish attack ended with a dangerous high ball.
On the restart, Welten again terrorised the Spanish defence, hitting the left baseline before pushing into the centre. Xan de Waard could not quite grasp the chance but the ball fell for Frederique Matla to pop home, bringing a 2-0 lead they carried into half-time.
After the break, Maria Tost’s trickery forged Spain’s best chance but Veenendaal dealt with the shot with reasonable comfort in the 37th minute. It was a warning shot and they got level when, with only a couple of second remaining in the quarter, Lola Riera smashed a ball into the circle and Begona Garcia got a touch.
Umpire Laurine Delforge called a video review to check the timing and the verdict came back in Spain’s favour, giving them a major lifeline with 15 minutes to go.
But those hopes were shortlived as Welten again was the creative force as she tore down the right wing. The first up chance got lodged under Ruiz but when it was cleared, Matla was again on hand to shoot in, making it 3-1 with 13 minutes to go.
It signalled the right time for the sides to take a break amid incessant rain and thunder and lightning circling in the Amsterdam sky with the sides off the pitch for 50 minutes.
The Dutch resumed in much sharper fashion with Welten’s reverse stinging the pads of Ruiz while Maria Verschoor and Laurien Leurink burst into the circle to wreak havoc. Caia van Maasakker also drew a brilliant low stop from Ruiz from a final corner in the closing minutes but it mattered little for the final result as the Dutch began their campaign with a fine win.
Netherlands – Spain 3-1 (2-0)
25’ Lidewij Welten 1-0
29’ Frederique Matla 2-0
45’ Begona Garcia 2-1
49’ Frederique Matla 3-1
Umpires: L Delforge, A Unka
** For official match details, click here