Raipur, Dec 4 (IANS) World champions Australia held off a strong challenge from the Netherlands 3-2 in the first semi-final of the Hockey World League (HWL) Final at the Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel International Stadium here on Friday. Dylan Wotherspoon (eighth minute) and Daniel Beale (22nd) made it 2-0 before the defending champions equalised with goals from Constantin Jonker (29th) and Mirco Pruijser (33rd). Matt Gohdes scored the winner in the 42nd minute. In the final, Australia awaits the winner of the second semi-final between hosts India and Belgium to be played on Saturday.
If not for the stupendous performances from the goalkeepers of both the teams — Australia’s Andrew Charter and the Netherlands’ Jaap Stockmann — the scoreline would have been much bigger. Charter held the fort, denying the Netherlands to convert penalty corner chances in the third quarter while Stockman thwarted several Australian raids. Australia put up a dominant show in the first 30 minutes. Wotherspoon tapped in for the first goal after being set up by Jamie Dwyer from the top of the circle in the first half. The world No.1 side was on the rampage in the second quarter too with Dwyer missing two clear opportunities in as many minutes. The 36-year-old, playing in his 350th match for his country, failed to trap a Kieran Govers pass from the left post and later let it go with a soft deflection, with only Stockman to beat, off an Eddie Ockenden pass. However, they didn’t have to wait as Hayward’s flick was blocked before Dwyer’s deflection was quelled but Beale put it home for the 2-0 lead in the 22nd minute. Amid all this, the Dutch relied on counter-attacks. Niet van der Schoot’s cross from the right was not properly received by Thierry Brinkman as the Australian stood firm. The Netherlands bounced back as Seve van Ass made a solo run up from the left before passing it to Billy Bakker, who fed Constantin Jonker lurking in front of the goal. Jonker made a body rotation before finding the back of the net just before the close of a second quarter. After the break, the Dutch continued with the momentum and found their equaliser when Mink van der Weerden controlled an aerial ball from captain Robert van der Horst before passing it to Jeroen Hertzberger. The Dutch forward employed a back-hand strike that found a deflection from Pruijser.
However, Australia again got ahead with another deflection goal from Matt Gohdes, who made use of a direct shot at the goal from Tim Deavin 30 yards away. The momentum swung the opposite way quickly, but the Netherlands’ drag-flickers were only to be blamed. Van der Weerden failed to make most of as many as three penalty corners in the dead end of the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, the Netherlands tried their best but failed to find the equaliser as they lost 2-3.