Mink van der Weerden’s penalty corner in the 31st minute was enough to see the hosts past Bobby Crutchley’s England side after an outstanding display in front of a noisy home crowd in this Rabobank World Cup semi-final.
Van Der Weerden’s deflected effort came just four minutes before the end of a first half dominated by the home side who had up until that point been frustrated by England’s solid rear-guard action.
The visitors nearly got off to a dream start. Having won the ball in the opening 30 seconds, Nick Catlin cut inside dangerously and found Ashley Jackson inside the D with a lovely diagonal pass. Jackson’s deflection was kept out brilliantly by Jaap Stockmann who was alert straight away and got a strong glove to the ball.
The hosts’ pace and movement started to put England under pressure and after ten minutes they won their first penalty corner. The injection was wayward meaning Van Der Weerden had to adjust to get his flick away which was brilliantly defended by Middleton on the line.
Bobby Crutchley’s side were getting caught in possession just outside their own D with increasing and alarming regularity. Valentin Verga robbed Mikey Hoare and was 1v1 with Pinner but bobbled his shot wide and then with eight minutes left in the half Billy Bakker won the ball and fed Seve van Ass whose fierce shot was tipped onto the bar brilliantly by Pinner.
With time running out in the half it was looking like England would get to the break all square but then with four minutes remaining, Van Der Weerden struck. He beat Pinner with a high drag flick to the goalkeeper’s left which got there via a deflection off Mark Gleghorne’s glove, sending the crowd wild and the Dutch in with their noses in front.
As in the first half, England threatened first at the start of the second. Stockmann was alive to the danger once again, seeing off Simon Mantell’s close range effort. In the 39th minute, the home side forced another penalty corner but Middleton cleared off the line and Pinner got down well to save the follow-up from Bakker.
Another turnover in a dangerous area allowed Bakker to set up Rogier Hofman but he smashed his effort against the post. England rallied and forced a penalty corner but Ashley Jackson was closed down before he could get the shot away and it was blocked.
With four minutes to go there was high drama as England forced another corner. With Jackson off the field the responsibility fell to Gleghorne whose low shot just evaded a sliding Iain Lewers on the post and flew agonizingly wide.
England took off Pinner as a last throw of the dice but it was in vain and the home crowd celebrated their side making the final for the first time since 1998.
A disappointed George Pinner told The Top of the D afterwards:
“It’s a world cup semi-final. You have to work very hard to get to one of those and we’ve done that. To miss out in a tight 1-0 game is gutting. In the future when we look back we can take a lot of positives but we still lost 1-0 which is the bottom line.” he added: “Mink flicks a very good corner. I was lucky the runners and guys like Barry helped me out but the one they scored from took a deflection. He is a great flicker but it wasn’t a moment of magic. Sometimes a bit of luck decides these games. They had the better chances but we’re desperately disappointed.”
Simon Mantell, the England No8 echoed the goalkeeper’s sentiments, saying: “Chances are scarce at this level and this game was no different. There are such tiny margins between winning and losing and unfortunately we didn’t take ours today. We put a better game out in the second half but it’s really disappointing not to make the final. We have a massive 48 hours now to get ready for the bronze medal match.”
England will now have to pick themselves up and fight for a medal this Sunday, facing the loser of Argentina vs Australia.