East Grinstead hosts international hockey stars
EAST Grinstead Sports Club became a stage for international hockey yesterday (Thursday) when the Netherlands faced Pakistan in a warm-up friendly ahead of the Olympic Games in London.
The Dutch emerged victorious in the behind closed doors match, running out 5-1 winners in front of a privileged few spectators.
The match saw both sides make their final preparations for the Olympics in the sweltering early evening heat, with East Grinstead Hockey Club's first team manager, Matt Jones, adding that the standard of hockey was as "almost as good as it gets."
"In terms of the quality on show, you don't get much better than this," he said.
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"It has turned out to be an absolutely perfect solution for everyone concerned and the weather has blessed us, so everyone is smiling."
The first half was a close affair, with end-to-end hockey and both defences looking strong.
But Netherlands midfielder Robbert Kemperman made the breakthrough in the 33rd minute, smashing a reverse stick shot home from the edge of the D after good build up play.
Shortly after the break, Dutch forward Roderick Weusthof extended his side's lead with a well-taken effort to finish off a good move, before Pakistan pulled a goal back in the 49th minute through Abdul Haseem Khan, who tapped home from close range after good work from Muhammad Umar Bhutta.
The goal only seemed to spur the Netherlands into action though and defender Mink van der Weerden struck two goals in the space of ten minutes - both from penalty corners - to extend his side's lead.
And midfielder Rogier Hofman rounded things off in the 69th minute, finishing off a flowing move down the left hand side to wrap up a 5-1 win for the Netherlands.
After the match, both camps said it had been a good final test before the Olympics get underway.
Dutch coach Paul van Ass said: "It was a good game for us and nice to play against an Asian side in Pakistan, as our opening match is against India.
"We didn't start too well, but in the second half we took the initiative."
He said the Netherlands team would be looking to reach the semi-finals of the tournament, adding that he was looking forward to getting underway at the Olympics.
"This is what we live for," he said.
"It is four years of building your team for this and now it is here.
"I think we have the ability to reach the semi-finals and from there, it is different again."
Meanwhile, secretary of the Pakistan Hockey Federation, Asif Bajwa, said the team would analyse the performance ahead of the tournament.
He said: "We tried some different things here - some were good and some were bad, but we now need to analyse that.
"The scoreline was not important for us, but reacting on that is.
"We are looking forward to the tournament now and we are expecting a good show from Pakistan."
The Olympic hockey tournament gets underway this weekend, with women's matches taking place on Sunday and the men's tournament beginning on Monday.
Pakistan, who are in Great Britain's pool, face Spain in their opening match on Monday afternoon, while they are followed by the Netherlands against India in Pool B, before Great Britain open their Pool A account against Argentina on Monday evening at 7pm.