[close]

Kookaburras collapse against Dutch

The Australian men's hockey team have squandered a 5-2 lead over the Netherlands in the Pro League opener before being overpowered in a penalty shootout.

Kookaburras collapse against Dutch

The Australian men's hockey team have squandered a 5-2 lead over the Netherlands in the Pro League opener before being overpowered in a penalty shootout.

Australia have blown a three-goal lead before losing a shootout to arch rivals the Netherlands in a thrilling start to the new men's Hockey Pro League in hot conditions in Melbourne.

The Kookaburras led 5-2 at three-quarter time but wilted against a superb Dutch counterattack who defied Saturday's 33-degree heat to level at 5-5 and force the shootout, in which they were too clinical and prevailed 4-1.


It was a reprise of the teams' December World Cup semi-final in India where the Dutch also prevailed in a shootout.

Holland took two points from the match and Australia one, with man-of-the-match Tom Craig understandably dejected by the result.

"Any team who blows a three-goal lead can't be too happy," said the NSW striker who opened the scoring in just the third minute.

Until the final break, it looked like Australia's game, but defensive errors and careless passing allowed the Dutch to exert pressure and they roared back to life - despite converting only one of seven penalty corners.

Jonas de Geus (corner), Billy Bakker and Bjorn Kelleman punished a disjointed Australian defence to rescue what had seemed a lost cause.

The Dutch also had the better of the first quarter with dangerous counterattacks, but Australia led 2-1 at the break thanks to goals by Craig and rookie Tim Brand.

In the middle two quarters, Australia took control and finished off some excellent passages of play as the heat seemed to have taken its toll on the Europeans.

Eddie Ockenden, Trent Mitton and Lachlan Sharp shared the goals as the home team started to gel in front of a sellout crowd.

But with two players in the sin bin to start the last quarter, Australia surrendered the early advantage and the Netherlands took their chances.

Australian coach Colin Batch was furious after witnessing the implosion.

"It's very disappointing. We didn't handle the pressure in that last quarter and we had trouble coming out of defence," he said.

Dutch coach Max Caldas was understandably delighted when the turn around was capped by an efficient shootout.

"Every time we practise we do shootouts and we're thinking about having specialists for that," he said.

The Pro League has a weekly home-and-away format featuring the world's top eight teams.

Australia must back up against world No.1 Belgium on Sunday in Melbourne, while the Dutch travel to Spain in a fortnight.

The top four teams play finals in June in Holland.

AAP


AAP




Latest Stories