Euro Hockey League Final Four: Bloemendaal 2-2 Amsterdam. (3-1 on penalties.)

Goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann was the hero for Bloemendaal with three saves in the penalty shootout to help his team into tomorrow’s final having overcome old rivals Amsterdam in a thrilling Euro Hockey League Semi-Final.

For the second time today there was no separating the sides over 70 minutes or during extra time, but in a contrast to the first semi final, the drama was heightened by a series of failed attempts to score during the shootout.

Amsterdam were the first to strike, taking the lead with an excellent counter attacking goal. Chris Ciriello’s penalty corner at one end went wide and with men committed forward Bloemendaal were caught out. Amsterdam swept forward the length of the pitch, Santi Freixa got round the back and crossed for Mirco Pruyser to prod home from close range.

Amsterdam wasted a couple of penalty corner opportunities by failing to trap the ball cleanly on the top of the D but managed to double their lead from open play in the second quarter. Much of the pre-match talk had centred around the Bloemendaal No.14 Teun De Nooijer and his upcoming retirement, but it was Pruyser, the Amsterdam No.14 who was threatening to spoil the party as he scored his second of the match with a superb deflection into the top corner to silence the home crowd.

Bloemendaal almost hit back through another Ciriello penalty corner but Derek van Essen got down well to somehow divert the ball around the post.

Bloemendaal started the second half on the attack and Nick Meijer went close with a fierce reverse stick shot which was well turned over the bar by Van Essen. At the other end Stockmann had to be alert to keep out Freixa after a mistake from Matthew Swann let the Spaniard into the D.

With time running out in the third quarter Bloemendaal grabbed a lifeline. A well-worked penalty corner routine had the ball slipped to Wouter Jolie who slapped a precise pass into the D where Eby Kessing deflected the ball in to make it 2-1.

Bloemendaal almost equalised through De Nooijer after good approach play by Ronald Brouwer before Fergus Kavanagh drew the sides level with a calm finish lifted high into the net from close range after Meijer had smuggled the ball through to the Australian from inside the D.

There was to be no separating the sides and so the game headed into extra time. The best chance of both additional periods fell to Bloemendaal: Van Essen made a superb save, diving to his right to deny De Nooijer who slid in to deflect Rogier Hofman’s pass goalwards. There was still no winner to be found so the game went to a penalty shootout.

Billy Bakker went first for Amsterdam but despite getting the ball past Stockmann he looked on in despair as the goalkeeper recovered to scramble the ball clear inches from the line. Brouwer also missed for Bloemendaal, as did Valentin Verga for Amsterdam. Matthew Swann finally opened the scoring in the shootout but Jan Willem Buissant levelled things up by converting his chance. Hofman scored for the home side at the second attempt and it was advantage Bloemendaal. Nicky Leijs was kept out by Stockmann leaving Wouter Jolie to score and send Bloemendaal in to the final, 3-1 on penalties.

The loss looked tough on Amsterdam who like Rot Weiss Koln in the first semi final had led 2-0 early on. It also caps a frustrating season for Taco van den Honert’s team who finished in 5th in the Hoofdklasse and will now have to battle for third place in the EHL tomorrow.

This was the first time Bloemendaal had won a shootout in the EHL at the third time of asking, giving the home fans the chance to watch their side play in tomorrow’s final against KHC Dragons. Maybe, just maybe, the retiring Teun De Nooijer will get his fairytale farewell.

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