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New Zealand and Pakistan through to the Final in Salta
12 Dec 2022 21:32

Picture FIH / Matias Aguirre

At the BDO Champions Challenge in Salta, New Zealand displayed experience to beat Argentina (3-2) and Pakistan outscored India (6-3) to qualify for the Final on Sunday. South Africa edged Belgium (4-3) with a last second goal, and China won over Canada (3-1) in the cross-over 5-8.

Game 13 – 5-8 cross-over – Belgium v. South Africa: 3-4 (half-time: 2-2)

After 24 hours of torrential rains, the weather cleared up just in time for the first match of the day. South Africa had the first chance on a penalty-corner but Belgium defended it well and immediately earned one at the other end on the counter-attack. Jerome DEKEYSER scored it with a low shot that surprised Brendon BOTES in the South African goal. DEKEYSER doubled his tally a few minutes later with a diving deflection but South Africa reduced their deficit in the 17th minute with a penalty-corner by Wade PATON that needed to be confirmed by the video-umpire.

South Africa had a couple more penalty-corner but it is with a superb reverse stick shot that Jonathan ROBINSON brought his team level in the 25th minute. Jerome DEKEYSER, very active upfront, had a massive chance when he received a cross alone on the penalty-stroke point, but he was a tad too slow to shoot on goal. South Africa were down two players in the final minutes of the period, offering yet another chance to DEKEYSER, but no more goals were scored before the break (2-2).

With blue sky and hot sun miraculously back, the second half was a spirited affair, with chances at both ends. Jeffrey THYS crashed a penalty-corner on the post and Vincent van ASCH in the Belgian goal pulled a few strong saves in front of Lloyd NORRIS-JONES, Wade PATON and Marvin HARPER, and it is finally Cedric CHARLIER who broke the deadlock for Belgium in the 51st minute. The Red Devils survived a series of penalty-corners when they were under a yellow card and Jerome DEKEYSER missed another chance to increase their lead on a penalty-stroke brilliantly saved by Brendon BOTES.

South Africa came back level once again in the 65th minute with a direct shot by Justin REID-ROSS on penalty-corner. With extra-time looming, the tempo increased a notch. Felix DENAYER picked up a yellow card and the momentum was all for South Africa. They played quickly a touch and Lloyd MADSEN inherited the ball in the circle and did not miss the opportunity to score his first international goal with a few seconds left on the clock!

Game 14 – 5-8 cross-over – Canada v. China: 1-3 (half-time: 1-2)

The two teams started tentatively, testing each other. Canada was first on the scoreboard in the 7th minute when Mark PEARSON received the ball in the circle, escaped his marker with a turn and shot the ball out of reach of Rifeng SU in the Chinese goal. However China were promptly level with a field goal by Yi SONG. The Canadians were controlling the midfield but were prevented from penetrating deep in the Chinese camp by the speed of their opponents.

China earned a penalty-corner after a stolen ball in midfield was turned into a swift counter-attack, and Yi SONG scored his second goal after avoiding the runners and slotting the ball just inside the post. The Canadians were circulating the ball efficiently but were lacking the jump they had in their match against Argentina. They defended well two penalty-corners early in second period, but could not prevent Fenghui LU to pounce on the rebound of the third one to widen the gap.

Canada pushed higher but left their backfield more open and China had a great opportunity when Yang YU and Yi SONG arrived alone in the circle, but were well handled by Dave CARTER in the Canadian goal. Canada had two penalty-corners but were less efficient that against Argentina. They were circulating the ball well, with some dazzling series of passes, however they could not generate good chances and the game ended with a win for the Chinese (3-1). China will now play South Africa on Sunday for 5th- 6th place, while Canada will play Belgium for 7th-8th.

Game 15 – Semi-final – Argentina v. New Zealand: 2-3 (half-time: 1-2)

Statistics between the two teams before this semi-final (compiled by B.G.Joshi, Bhopal, India):
Matches played: 29,- Argentina won 11, New Zealand won 12 - 6 draws
Goals for Argentina: 50 - Goals for New Zealand: 55
Biggest Wins for Argentina: 5-3 in 1982 World Cup in Mumbai
Biggest Wins for New Zealand: 5-1 in 1992 Test Series in Auckland
Last played: 2008 Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh: Argentina won 2-1 

The first semi-final started under bright sun and in front of a large audience (and live TV coverage). But the local fans were promptly silenced when Andrew HAYWARD scored a penalty-corner in the second minute of play, setting the tone for the match. Once the shock of this early goal passed, Argentina was promptly back on the attack and besieged the Black Sticks goal but were kept at bay, including on their first penalty-corner.

After a series of near misses, their pressure paid off on their second penalty-corner. They didn’t bother with an option this time and Pedro IBARRA powered the ball out of reach of Kyle PONTIFEX in the New Zealand goal. Argentina kept pushing forward, threatening the goal, but the experienced New Zealand defense absorbed well the pressure. The Argentinean forwards were showing some nervousness in their last passes or shots, and the score did not evolve until the 32nd minute, when the ever reliable Phillip BURROWS concluded a counter-attack, giving the lead to the Black Sticks going into the break, albeit slightly against the run of play.

The second half started with the drums now in action to encourage the local team but the Black Sticks seemed to have found the key to lock the midfield and it took a while for the first serious Argentinean chance, a penalty-corner shot wide by Pedro IBARRA. New Zealand were more efficient at the other end and scored on their first incursion in Argentinean territory, this time by Shea MCALEESE. Down by two goals, the situation was looking bleak for Argentina, and they still could not find solutions to penetrate the compact New Zealand defense, even on another penalty-corner shot wide yet again by Pedro IBARRA.

In the last ten minutes, New Zealand pushed forward more and Simon CHILD ran twice the ball in the Argentinean circle, crossing for Phillip BURROWS, but he was shot down by Juan Tomas ESPINOSA in goal. Argentina finally narrowed the gap in the 66th minute by LucasVILA after a counter-attack that swept the whole field, setting the stage for a torrid end of match! Teams traded green cards, but the experienced New Zealanders controlled the ball in the final minute, earning their berth in the Final on Sunday.

Game 16 – Semi-final – India v. Pakistan: 3-6 (half-time: 1-3)

Statistics between the two teams before this semi-final (compiled by B.G.Joshi, Bhopal, India):
Matches played: 139 - India won 43, Pakistan won 73 - 23 draws
Goals for India: 250 - Goals for Pakistan: 327.
Biggest Wins for India: 7-4 in 2003 Champions Trophy in Amstelveen
Biggest Wins for Pakistan: 7-1 in 1980 Champions Trophy in Karachi and in 1982 Asian Games Final
Last played: 2022 Asia Cup in Kuantan: Pakistan won 3-2

The second semi-final was a classic India vs. Pakistan encounter, always a treat for hockey fans all over the world. Pakistan rushed forward and Rehan BUTT opened the scoring within two minutes of play, with a seemingly harmless shot that fooled Adrian D'SOUZA in the Indian goal. Less than two minutes later, Prabhjot SINGH and Muhammad IRFAN were sent off with yellow cards. With another Pakistani player seating off a green card, India forced a penalty-corner and Dhananjay MAHADIK did not miss the opportunity to reset the counters level.

India now had the momentum and Salman AKBAR in the Pakistani goal faced a barrage of shots after spectacular moves that pleased the crowd of connoisseurs. As often between these two teams, the match was a display of attacking hockey, with all players showing off their individual skills. Adrian D'SOUZA made up for his initial mistake by stopping Rehan BUTT at the top of the circle, but there was little he could do on a phenomenal shot by the same BUTT in the 29th minute. Sohail ABBAS added a penalty-corner and things suddenly looked bright for the Green Shirts going into the break.

India seemed a bit dispirited for a while at the beginning of second period. Excellent work by Rajpal SINGH on the back line earned them a penalty-corner but they could not convert it. They then had a long period of domination, with a massive chance for Rajpal SINGH after a quick series of passes in the circle, but his deflection on the far post was just wide. With time passing without further score, India pushed higher, exposing in the process their defense and Haseem KHAN took advantage to score an opportunistic goal in the 58th minute, pushing the Pakistani lead to 3 goals.

The end of the game saw a flurry of goals at both ends (4 goals in 8 minutes!), first Dhananjay MAHADIK on penalty-corner, then  Rehan BUTT completing his hat-trick of field goals, then another penalty-corner for India this time by Diwakar RAM and finally Sohail ABBAS converting a penalty-stroke after his last penalty-corner was stopped illegally!

The BDO Champions Challenge I concludes Sunday in Salta when Belgium play Canada for the 7th and 8th places, South Africa meet China for the 5th and 6th places, Argentina face India for the 3rd and 4th places, and New Zealand lock horn with Pakistan in the Final, for a berth in the 2023 Champions Trophy in Monchengladbach, Germany !

BDO Champions Challenge I (men) – Salta, Argentina
Results Day 4: Saturday 12 December 2022

(5-8) Belgium – South Africa  3:4 (2:2)
BEL   8mn  Jerome DEKEYSER (PC)  1:0
BEL  14mn  Jerome DEKEYSER (FG)  2:0
RSA  17mn  Wade PATON (PC)  2:1
RSA  25mn  Jonathan ROBINSON (FG)  2:2
BEL  51mn  Cedric CHARLIER (FG)  3:2
RSA  65mn  Justin REID-ROSS (PC)  3:3
RSA  70mn  Lloyd MADSEN (FG)  3:4

(5-8) Canada - China  1:3 (1:2)
CAN   7mn  Mark PEARSON (FG)  1:0
CHN  11mn  Yi SONG (FG)  1:1
CHN  28mn  Yi SONG (PC)  1:2
CHN  39mn  Fenghui LU (PC)  1:3

(semi) Argentina – New Zealand  2:3 (1:2)
NZL   2mn  Andrew HAYWARD (PC)  0:1
ARG  18mn  Pedro IBARRA (PC)  1:1
NZL  32mn  Phillip BURROWS (PC)  1:2
NZL  45mn  Shea MCALEESE (PC)  1:3
ARG  66mn  LucasVILA (FG)  2:3

(semi) India - Pakistan  3:6 (1:3)
PAK   2mn  Rehan BUTT (FG)  0:1
IND   8mn  Dhananjay MAHADIK (PC)  1:1
PAK  29mn  Rehan BUTT (FG)  1:2
PAK  32mn  Sohail ABBAS (PC)  1:3
PAK  58mn  Haseem KHAN (FG)  1:4
IND  62mn  Dhananjay MAHADIK (PC)  2:4
PAK  64mn  Rehan BUTT (FG)  2:5
IND  67mn  Diwakar RAM  (PC)  3:5
PAK  70mn  Sohail ABBAS (PS)  3:6

Schedule for final day (Sunday 13 December):
9:05  7-8  Belgium v. Canada
11:35  5-6  South Africa v. China
14:05  3-4  Argentina v. India
16:35  1-2  New Zealand v. Pakistan

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