First half goals from Billy Bakker and Jelle Galema were enough to give The Netherlands their second win from two games in the Eurohockey Championships, their seventh win over England in this competition.
England started the game without Ben Arnold who was showing symptoms of concussion after a blow to the head against Poland.
On two minutes Valentin Verga had a glorious chance as he found himself all alone at the far post. He uncharacteristically missed the ball completely and the opportunity went begging. The Dutch forced an early penalty corner but Mink Van Der Weerden’s effort was deflected over by the on-rushing Dan Fox. On six minutes, the deadlock was broken. A long pass into the D from Klass Vermeulen popped up off a defender’s stick and Bakker calmly volleyed the ball down and through George Pinner’s legs.
Sander Baart almost made it 2-0, unmarked at the back post he beat Pinner but saw his deflection go wide.
England were finding it hard to get a foothold in the game, being stretched by the constant movement and possession in wide areas that the Dutch were having. Henry Weir showed some good strength and skill on the ball as he tried to make inroads on the right hand side but the Dutch, and in particular Robin Van Der Horst defended very well. With 11 minutes left in the half the Oranje doubled their lead. Verga found Robbert Kemperman in the D, his shot was well saved by Pinner but Galema was in the right place to stab home at the second attempt from close range.
England came out after the break with a renewed determination, forcing a penalty corner after excellent work from Alastair Brogdon down the right. The corner was mis-trapped and Nick Catlin was unable to get a shot away. At the other end Van Der Weerden’s penalty corner was saved by Pinner before Bakker blazed a shot wide from the edge of the D.
With 16 minutes left, England handed themselves a lifeline. A long cross from the right found its way to Barry Middleton. With time and space to take a touch he picked his spot in the far corner giving Jaap Stockmann no chance to make it 2-1.
The Dutch forced another penalty corner which was not trapped properly, Verga got a shot away which was batted clear by Pinner from on the ground and England managed to scramble the ball to safety.
With Bobby Crutchley’s side pushing forwards to try and get an equaliser, gaps started to appear at the back. Kemperman played an exquisite pass through to Constantijn Jonker who was clean through. Pinner was out quickly and did enough to put the No.20 off, the ball looping up off the goalkeeper’s pads. Van Der Weerden tried his luck from the resultant corner but Pinner was down well to save again.
With time running out, England had one last chance. Tom Carson showed great control to pick up a through ball on the left by the baseline. He waited for support to arrive but was unable to find Simon Mantell and the cross ran away to safety.
With this win, the Dutch have qualified for the semi final. Barring a shock result against Poland they will finish top of the pool. England face Ireland on Wednesday, knowing a draw will be enough for second place in the group. It is still all to play for between the two sides and the clash against the Green Machine promises to be a tense affair.
The Dutch looked incredibly strong, seemed to outpace England all over the pitch. They have to be in with a good shout of gold this time around.
I only caught some of the second half of this match but some the Dutch play was great.
I was surprised when they fluffed it a couple of times right in front of the goal though.