The Vantage Black Sticks have come from 2 goals down with 10 minutes to go to draw their final pool match with Spain 2-2. After falling behind the Vantage Black Sticks needed a rocket of a forehand shot from Hayden Phillips and then a Kane Russell power flick to ensure the Vantage Black Sticks progress to the second round of the Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup.
The Vantage Black Sticks started the game strongly holding possession well and constructing two fantastic scoring opportunities for Stephen Jenness both times the Spanish goalkeeper Quico Cortes was up to the task. Spain then found an open Albert Beltran at the top of the circle who reversed into the Vantage Black Sticks goal to put Spain ahead 1-0. The Vantage Black Sticks pushed hard searching to get themselves on the score sheet, however they were unable to break through the Spanish defence leaving the score at the end of the 1st 1-0 in favour of Spain.
Spain began the second quarter starving the Vantage Black Sticks of possession as they looked to construct some good opportunities and put the Vantage Black Sticks in a tough position in the match. The Vantage Black Sticks defence was a lot tighter throughout this period and managed to hold the Spanish attack at bay. Late in the second quarter Spain had the first penalty corner of the match where they ran a German penalty corner which was deflected wide by the Vantage Black Sticks first runner. With 2 minutes to go the Blair Tarrant struggled to clear the ball out of his defensive circle when a Spanish player stole the ball and put it past Richard Joyce to put Spain in the lead 2-0. The score remained the same as Spain went into the halftime sheds full of confidence and looking to secure 2nd place in the pool.
Spain started the second half how they finished the 1st playing with a great amount of possession and going close on several occasions. The Vantage Black Sticks absorbed the pressure and then looked to play more aggressively as they started forcing turnovers off a more aggressive press they were employing. Despite both teams having scoring chances, the score remained unchanged from half time.
The start of the 4th quarter was played with a lot less intensity as Spain were looking to just wind the clock down. However, with 10 minutes to go in the game Hayden Phillips received a pass from Hugo Inglis and rocketed a ball past Quico Cortes to set up a riveting final 10. At this point the Vantage Black Sticks pulled their goalkeeper to give themselves a one-man field player advantage. This bold move paid off as the Vantage Black Sticks got their first penalty corner of the match. Kane Russell stepped up and flicked a powerful drag flick low and into the goal to tie the match up. This was the way the match finished with Spain 2 and the Vantage Black Sticks 2.
Vantage Black Sticks Captain Blair Tarrant stated “We never thought we were out of it, even at 2-0 down. We’d made a few chances in the first half and it was just a matter of taking one. Hayden Phillips goal was just what we needed to dig deep and push for that second goal and secure our spot in the next round”.
The draw sees the Vantage Black Sticks through to the second round of the tournament where they will cross over with Pool B and will meet one of Ireland, China or England in the next round. After this finish the Vantage Black Sticks will be going into this game full of confidence.
Vantage Black Sticks 2 (Hayden Phillips 50', Kane Russell 56')
Spain 2 (Albert Beltran 9', Alvaro Iglesias 27')