LONDON - Joyce Sombroek pulled off three memorable penalty saves to set up Ellen Hoog to secure the Netherlands a third successive Olympic final berth at a tense Riverbank Arena. In doing so, they killed off the dreams of a New Zealand playing in their first ever semi-final, a side who have been one of the joys to watch during this campaign with their fast-paced, direct style.
It twice had them in the lead against the reigning champions as a Kayla Sharland corner and Krystal Forgesson nudged them in front. But Maartje Paumen finally found her scoring stick to level on both occasions, leading to extra-time and the ultimate penalty drama.
Only Stacey Michelsen could get past Sombroek while Naomi Van As, Eva de Goede and Hoog applied confident finishes to crush the kiwi dreams. Coming into the game, the odds were stacked against New Zealand. They had not beaten the Dutch in their last 17 tournament meetings while their three prior matches in the Olympics had all yielded Netherlands’ wins.
But the kiwis looked to send those statistics on their head with a stunning opening salvo. Gemma Flynn and Katie Glynn were combining well while Charlotte Harrison won the game’s first corner – on referral – in the eighth minute. Kayla Sharland’s powerful sweep shot took a couple of little touches to sneak just inside the right post and the Dutch were rocked on their heels. In response, the orange-shirts probed down the right baseline regularly with Kelly Jonker twice denied by Bianca Russell with Naomi van As the instigator.
Similarly, Marilyn Agliotti’s shot was under-hit but they were scrappy, half chances while the black sticks were more direct in their counter-attacking philosophy. Sharland was the powerful dynamo in midfield, bullying her way forward. Glynn again was set through in the circle while Joyce Sombroek’s toe just denied an in-rushing Flynn.
Sitting so deep, though, invited the Dutch forward and Lidewij Welten worked their first penalty corner opportunity. Yet to score in the competition, Maartje Paumen had previously joked she was saving her goals for the final, but she delivered a game earlier, neatly exchanging passes with Maartje Goderie to beat the first runner. She duly scooped the ball over the logged Russell and the sides were level four minutes before half-time.
The second half kept up the same pulsating pace with Paumen dragging over her second corner while Ellen Hoog stung the base of Russell’s foot with an excellent reverse-stick effort. Twenty-one minutes from time, the kiwis were back in front. Flynn’s pass inside found Stacey Michelsen who picked out Krystal Forgesson all alone on the right. She picked the narrowest of angles at the near post to make it 2-1, finding a way past Sombroek.
It lasted only five minutes, though, as Paumen had a taste for goals. From a referred corner call, she fired a rocket to the roof of the goal. It was her 13th Olympic goal, equalling the all-time record held by Alyson Annan. New Zealand rebounded, winning a series of corners of their own, ending normal time with seven to their name but no winner accrued while the best Dutch chances came from a Naomi Van As run and reverse while Welten was unable to get a touch to Paumen’s crash ball. Extra-time swung end to end but neither side could make a meaningful impact. Paumen pushed the only corner of the period just wide while Flynn was in the suspension bin. It left everything riding on the all-or-nothing penalty competition and the Dutch experience told against the young up-and-comers.