Black Sticks men's aggressive tactic pays off, then backfires in loss to Spain
Already guaranteed a place in the quarterfinals and down two goals to Spain, the Black Sticks men pulled their goalie.
Using Shea McAleese as a 'kicking back' in place of goalkeeper Devon Manchester for more than 15 minutes, New Zealand scored three goals from penalty corners to take a lead, only to see the tactic come back to bite them in a 4-3 loss to close out pool play at the FIH Hockey World League Semifinal in Johannesburg on Monday (Tuesday NZ Time).
Looking to finish as high in Pool A as possible - behind unbeaten Australia - the Black Sticks would have ended second if their 3-2 lead early in the fourth quarter held up, however they dropped to third after allowing two goals in the final three minutes. After finishing tied with France on four points with 1-1-2 records, New Zealand took third having scored 10 goals to nine.
A quarterfinal match against Belgium most likely awaits on Wednesday (Thursday NZT).
After goals from Josep Romeu in the 23rd minute and Enrique Gonzalez in the 35th minute, New Zealand brought on the extra field player and it paid off.
McAleese deflected in New Zealand's first goal from a Nic Woods penalty corner shot in the 43rd minute. Spain's Sergi Enrique was yellow-carded in the 54th minute and from the ensuing penalty corner, Woods was credited with the game-tying goal after his shot took a deflection off the stick of a Spanish defender.
A minute later, Kane Russell put the Black Sticks ahead with a well-executed penalty corner variation with Woods.
With the lead, Manchester return to the defensive circle as Spain pulled their goalkeeper for an extra field player and were rewarded with a game-tying goal in the 57th minute through Alvaro Iglesias.
New Zealand again yanked Manchester as they searched for a game-winner but some pressure from Spain's forward forced Nick Ross to mishandle the ball and into a turnover, allowing Pau Quemada to dribble in the easiest of goals with just 30 seconds remaining.
In their earlier matches, the Black Sticks drew with France 3-3, defeated Japan 3-1 and lost to Australia 2-1.
Spain 4 (Josep Romeu, Enrique Gonzalez, Alvaro Iglesias, Pau Quemada) New Zealand 3 (Shea McAleese, Nic Woods, Kane Russell). 1Q: 0-0, HT: 1-0, 3Q: 2-1