The New Zealand Black Sticks Men have suffered a 3-2 loss to Germany in their opening game at the Champions Trophy tournament in Melbourne today despite a strong finish.
Matt L’Huillier scored the Black Sticks’ first goal of the tournament from a penalty corner, with his hard and low flick lighting up the scoreboard in the 56th minute.
Nick Wilson edged his side even closer 10 minutes later after a magnificent 1-2 passing play with Steven Edwards saw him one on one with the goalkeeper to score his 50th international goal.
Germany warded off relentless attack in the final five minutes, with keeper Nicolas Jacobi making several terrific saves. The Kiwis had all the possession, but couldn’t get another shot past the scrambling defence.
Head coach Colin Batch said that while the loss was disappointing, the intensity and determination shown in the second half will be a critical factor for the rest of the tournament.
“We’re disappointed with the end result. We thought we still had a chance at halftime even after we went 3-0 down – we just made some basic defensive mistakes which cost us in the first half,” Batch said.
“We were certainly still positive at halftime and we possessed the ball with more purpose in the second half and it was pleasing to get some results for that with goals scored.
“It’s a journey we’ve got to keep working on and developing. It’s not going to be easy and we’ve got to hold possession more than today. We’ve got to create the play, and I think we’re very capable of that.”
Batch was also pleased with his young players, especially debutants Alex Shaw and Jacob Smith. Today’s clash was also just the second international cap for goalkeeper Hamish McGregor.
“I think it was tremendous experience for them and we had a number of players who had good games. Alex Shaw played well, looked really strong defensively and his passing was solid. Jacob Smith up front was closely marked and he did really well. It’s good from the point of view that guys have now experienced Champions Trophy and you can’t underestimate the impact that has on them.”
The Black Sticks play their second pool game tomorrow against India, with the action screened live on SKY Sport 2 at 8:30pm NZ time.
New Zealand wore arm bands today in memory of Robyn Mactaggart. Robyn was a passionate hockey supporter and was instrumental, along with her husband Bruce, in developing the unique sponsorship between the Hawke’s Bay community and the Black Sticks.
The sponsorship involved leading business and community leaders coming together to support the Black Sticks Men and Women on their journey to the 2012 London Olympics. Robyn was loved by the hockey community and will be greatly missed.
New Zealand 2 (L’Huillier, Wilson)
Germany 3 (Matania, Ruehr, Korn)
Halftime: Germany 3-0 New Zealand