The Den Bosch Hockey Club complex ( ‘s-Hertogenbosch ) home of the Dutch Hoofdklasse’s (women’s) current Rabo League leaders hosted the women’s EuroHockey Club Champions Cup last weekend with both Leicester and Slough looking to make it through their quarter final ties. In tough circumstances both sides succeeded, in Slough's case , by the skin of their teeth, after a contentious penalty shoot-out, to set up a mouth-watering all English semi-final in Whitsun (June 10-12)
In an evenly balanced match at Den Bosch , one goal from Lauren Turner was enough to put Leicester through as they battled hard to beat Berliner HC in a pulsating tie. Both sides created opportunities from open play and penalty corners throughout but Turner’s goal four minutes before half time was the ultimate decider that put the girls in orange through to semi finals. The match was played at a fast pace with plenty of goalmouth action. Leicester had the better of the first three quarters and held off Berliner's pressure in the closing stages as the German side tried to get back into the game.
Earlier Crista Cullen, Chloe Rogers and Beckie Herbert scored the Leicester goals against Royal Antwerp and they had chances to record an even more emphatic victory. Leicester chairman Sarah Treanor said the crunch match against the top Dutch team Den Bosch, which ended 3-1 was more evenly contested than the score line would suggest. She said: "We've been playing well and we had a lot of goal-scoring opportunities in both matches. There are about 30 or 40 supporters out here and they've given the team really good backing." Talking of the weekend , a delighted Leicester coach Chris Mayer said: “Absolutely ecstatic, we deserved that victory. It made up for a number of disappointments over the last two years and all the work the squad has put in. A great day for English clubs in Europe. We now look forward to the finals weekend at Whitsun.” Leicester had finished top of the England Premier division this season with Slough in 5th.
Following Leicester’s success, Slough took on Club de Campo Villa de Madrid of Spain. Things got off to a great start for Slough as they took the lead through Lauren Penny’s goal and despite being pegged back to 1-1 from an 18th minute penalty corner, Ashleigh Ball’s goal before half time gave the 2010 England Hockey League champions the upper hand at the break. As the second half began and the match progressed the Spanish pressed hard for an equaliser but it looked as if Slough had done enough until less than a minute from time when Montserrat Cruz stunned them with an equaliser. Without an extra time winner the game went to penalties and after three penalties each the teams were tied at two successful conversions, although Slough were slightly fortunate that Nicola White was allowed to retake and successfully convert a failed effort after an error by the umpire.
After Argentina international Carla Rebecchi (above) scored Club de Campo’s first sudden death penalty and England and Great Britain forward White matched the feat, everything turned when Cruz failed to score in the allotted time on the second sudden death penalty. International midfielder Ball stepped up knowing Slough would progress if she scored but she saw her effort saved only to be awarded a penalty goal for an infringement by the goalkeeper. The decision sparked scenes of celebration in the Slough ranks as Club de Campo protested to the umpire but the protests fell on deaf ears and Slough progressed to set up a tantalising all English semi final clash with Leicester on the weekend of 10-11 June.The other semi final will be an all Dutch affair with Laren facing this weekend’s hosts and likely favourites Den Bosch for a place in the final against either Leicester or Slough. Laren made easy work of Hamburg 5-1 completing a miserable weekend for German clubs with goals from Carlijn Welten, Juliette Hentenaar, Lisanne de Lange, Eileen Hoffmann, Kim Lammers and Julia Müller. Den Bosche hammered the hapless Spanish side CD Terrassa 10-1 with an avalanche of goals started with two penalty corner strikes from Maartje Paumen followed by a hatrick from Sabine Mol , two from Colette de Beaumont, and goals too from Lidewij Welten, Margot van Geffen and Vera Vorstenbosch.
Looking forward to the Semis
With the semis coming up in June , the venue still to be decided, Leicester, who topped the women's Premier Division this season, were unbeaten against fifth-placed Slough, winning 3-0 away and drawing 0-0 at home. Club chairman Sarah Treanor says Slough hold no fears for them. "We have beaten and drawn with them in the league. When we are firing on all cylinders, we look great. "If we can turn in the sort of performance we did on Monday, I'd like to think we would win."We have got a very good chance of getting through but we have got to make sure we work hard and do the basics right."Leicester have not won the European outdoor championship, although they have twice gone close, finishing third and, in 2007, claiming a silver medal. They lost out to Dutch side Den Bosch, in Holland, who have dominated the competition for the last 10 years and are likely to be Leicester's opponents in the final if they beat Slough. Leicester lost 3-1 to Den Bosch in a group match last weekend and Treanor admits they would have their work cut out to get revenge if they meet in the final.
Although they lost out in the EH Championship playoffs Leicester finished top of the Premiership and yet, it is not widely appreciated they are in fact a very small club with only a handful of women’s teams, three senior and three juniors, which puts that achievement in perspective.
Treanor continued “ We don't have our own ground or clubhouse and we play at Leicester Grammar School, where we have the use of just two pitches. "Den Bosch have their own brand new grounds, funded by the municipality , a clubhouse and seven pitches. We ran them close in 2007, we really pushed it." We don’t know the venue yet for the semis but Leicester are going to have to find another £15,000 at least for flights and hotels for the party of 18 players and staff.Treanor said: "The players have to contribute a lot, we don't get any funding for it. "We have a bit in reserve but, obviously, we will have to ask the players to contribute again. "Our sponsors are good and Pukka Pies gave us extra money for Europe this year but it only scratches the surface. If anyone can help, we would be grateful."
Day 4 Monday Play offs results :-
Volga Telekom (Rus) 2 Atasport (Aze) 5; Royal Antwerp (Bel) 2 Ritm Azot Grodno (Blr) 3
Hockey making broader use of the internet and video to help raise the profile of the game.
To the bitter disappointment of fans, no such provision, apparently ,had been factored in to give equal or in fact any TV coverage of the women’s games at the new Dens Bosch Hockey complex none of which were covered live. Fortunately, the Den Bosch organisers were able somewhat late in the day , at short notice , to set up a Twitter Clicker so that fans could at least follow regular brief updates of the main action.
There were a number of groups videoing games but some reported frequent problems with Wi-Fi signals at the venue causing them some difficulty. However, avid supporter of English women’s hockey, Ollie Rogers, brother of Leicester and England’s Chloe Rogers , whose day job is working for BBC Essex, was on hand watching and filming the games at Den Bosch and produced a stunning series of edited video shorts including interviews retrospectively and published them on You Tube sharing them with fans via his Facebook.Going to press, we have no indication of whether or not the semi-finals will we streamed live but it seems, regrettably , unlikely. I note that the FIH official world hockey website has four news items on its home page devoted to the EHL K016 but failed to post any report on the women’s games from Den Bosch. No mention either on the official European Hockey Federation official website.
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photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images