Argentina bounced back from their surprise defeat against the USA with an impressive win over the previously unbeaten Blacksticks in front of a passionate travelling support here tonight.
The game started at a breathless pace with both sides keen to make their mark on the match. Argentina had already gone close through Daniela Sruoga and had a Noel Barrionuevo penalty corner charged down when after three minutes they opened the scoring. Carla Rebecchi seized on a defensive mix up and drove a superb strike into the far corner to give her team a dream start.
New Zealand were still trying to get a foothold in the game and Stacey Michelsen and Anita Punt showed some superb close control and technical ability as they pushed their team forward in search of an equaliser. Despite these efforts, Argentina’s high press was causing New Zealand huge problems, resulting in a number of turnovers in dangerous positions.
They finally broke the shackles imposed by Las Leonas and forced a series of penalty corners. Clarissa Eshuis’ flick was charged down twice, before Katie Glynn’s shot was saved by Florencia Mutio.
New Zealand seemed to be more settled after this period in the ascendancy, Gemma Flynn made a splendid run and sent over a dangerous cross, which the goalkeeper did well to repel. Kayla Sharland too, went close to creating chances for her team, but the final ball was lacking.
Argentina forced another penalty corner just before half time, but again Barrionuevo’s effort was charged down.
The Blacksticks came out fast for the second half. They forced an early penalty corner but once again, Mutio was equal to the task, keeping out Sharland.
Then followed the best chance of the match so far: Gemma Flynn and Cathryn Finlayson linked up well and with the defence carved to pieces, Finlayson somehow hit the goalkeeper, and then sliced wide.
The margin of error in international hockey was cruelly demonstrated straight away. Having come close to drawing level, they found themselves two down instead. Rosario Luchetti drove forward at pace, hitting the baseline before finding Rebecchi, who grabbed her second and silenced the Kiwi supporters.
Michelsen set up Gemma Flynn, who beat the goalkeeper with her shot, which Charlotte Harrison touched home on the line, to set up a grandstand finish with the score now 2-1.
The closing minutes were frantic as both sides threw everything at each other. The vocal Las Leonas fans were trying to roar their side to victory, whilst most of the neutrals seemed to be rooting for a New Zealand to grab an equaliser. In the end, Argentina held on, to ensure this group will go right down to the wire. Argentina, New Zealand, Australia and Germany all have 6 points. This group is fast becoming “The Pool of Death.”