On the final day of the women's GANT EuroHockey Championship 2011, the Netherlands won the final against Germany, England defeated Spain for Bronze, and Belgium and Ireland logged wins to send Azerbaijan and Italy in Europe's second division for 2013. Kim Lammers of the Dutch team won the topscorer award, while German superstar Natascha Keller was elected Most Valuable Player.
The grand final of the tournament started with brilliant sunshine and a well filled stadium, with equal parts of the crowd supporting record and current title holder the Netherlands and the German hosts. The Dutch imposed themselves early, taking control of the game and scoring their first after 8 minutes when Marilyn Agliotti deflected a penalty corner flick into the net with a mid air swing. In a lively game, the ball went back and forth but the Dutch looked more dangerous than the Germans who struggled to find their way past Oranje's defenders. Ten minutes later, Ellen Hoog extended the lead to two goals with a fierce reverse stick shot from the top of the circle. During the remaining ten minutes in the first half, both sides had their opportunities, including short corners at both ends, but neither side could find the goal, and they went into halftime with a two goal advantage for the Netherlands.
The Dutch remained the dominating team in the second half, despite a solid performance from and some good opportunities for the German side. Yvonne Frank in the German goal put forward some great saves to ward off more Dutch goals, but she eventually could not avoid Lidewij Welten scoring a third goal for Oranje from a penalty corner rebound in the dying minutes of the match, and with dark clouds having moved in fast again, with less than 2 minutes on the clock, the skies opened up and the girls in orange danced in torrential rain and hail to celebrate another, entirely deserved European Champion title.
Prior to that the tournament's final encounter, England and Spain had played for bronze. Both teams went into the match focused and determined, and standing well in defense in the first half, they cancelled each other out and there were few opportunties on either side. England stepped their game up towards the end of the first 35 minutes and gained slight advantages, but they still could not make it onto the scoreboard.
After the break, the trend continued, England were the stronger side, but still, they could not make it count - on the contrary, a penalty corner for Spain saw the Iberians surge ahead when Silvia Muñoz tipped the rebound over the line from the goalmouth scramble. The goal shocked the English into action, and barely three minutes later, Helen Richardson scored her first to equalize. England continued to dominate the match, but it took them until the 68th minute to make the bronze entirely theirs with a reverse stick effort from Helen Richardson that became her and England's second goal.
Still earlier in the day, Ireland and Italy had disputed the first of the two remaining relegation pool encounters. Italy started unexpectedly well into the match, and put their opponents under some early pressure but it was Emma Clarke of the Irish team who scored against the run of play. Within the next three minutes, Nicky Symmons added the green shirts' second with a deflection goal, and Aine Connery piled on yet another from close range. The Irish held a tight grip on the proceedings for the remaining fifteen minutes until halftime, but after the break, Italy again started out well, which yielded a reverse stick goal by Alessia Padalino. Rattled by the goal, the Irish tightened the reins again and steered the match safely towards the finish line, with Shirley McCay adding a fourth goal with two minutes to go, making Ireland safe while sending Italy into relegation.
In the other relegation pool match, Belgium took on Azerbaijan, and the hosts of the next European Championships in 2013 took charge early, when team captain Charlotte de Vos used a moment of confusion in the Azeri defense to push the ball over the line. Following the goal, the Azeri team reared up, and attacked to pull even, but they could not find the goal and ended up having to take another blow, when Barbara Nelen completed a counter-attack with the Belgians' second goal. Further attacking from Azerbaijan remained uneffective, often cut short by the sturdy Belgian defense, and with the frustration growing, a mistake yielded a penalty stroke for Belgium which Jill Boon converted without hestation for the 3-0. A penalty corner in the last minute of the match yielded a consolation goal for Azerbaijan through Hyesook Shukurzade, but it was not enough to prevent relegation.
For more information on this event, please visit the EHF website www.eurohockey.org.
The EuroHockey Championships in Mönchengladbach, which end tomorrow, have confirmed 5 more participants in the 2012 Olympic hockey tournament in addition to the already qualified Great Britain men and women, Pakistan men and China and Korea women: the men of Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium have secured their ticket to London, as well as the women of Germany and the Netherlands.
1. Netherlands (European Champions)
7. Azerbaijan (Relegation for 2013)
8. Italy (Relegation for 2013)
Italy - Ireland 1:4 (0:3)
Alessia Padalino; Emma Clarke, Nicola Symmons, Aine Connery, Shirley McCay
Azerbaijan - Belgium 1:3 (0:2)
Hyesook Shukurzade; Charlotte de Vos, Barbara Nelen, Jill Boon
England - Spain 2:1 (0:0)
Helen Richardson; Silvia Muñoz
Netherlands - Germany 3:0 (2:0)
Marilyn Agliotti, Ellen Hoog, Lidewij Welten
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