Aymar misses out as Holland bag third hockey gold

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Hockey-Sticks-Olympics
London, Aug 11: Defending champions the Netherlands beat Argentina 2-0 on Friday to win their third gold in Olympic hockey. For the Las Leonas, it was the second Olympic silver after they lost to Australia in the final of the 2000 Sydney Games.

The Dutch women, who did not lose a single match at this Olympics, did not capitalise in the first half and went ahead only in the 45th minute when Dirkse van den Heuvel smashed home a rebound from the Argentine goalkeeper, Florencia Mutio. Skipper Maartje Paumen scored the second goal at the 54th minute by drag-flicking a penalty corner. Paumen, who has now scored 14 goals in Olympics, said they had saved their best for the final.

The Dutch faced criticism for their penalty corners but all their four goals in the semifinal and final came from them. The Dutch had won gold at the 1984 Los Angeles and 2008 Beijing Games. It will be a clean sweep for the Netherlands this Olympics if their men's team, too, succeed in pulling off a gold. They will take on defending champions Germany on Saturday. Neither the men's nor the women's Dutch teams have lost any match till the men's final. (See standings: women's, men's)

For the world champions Argentina, Friday's loss was tragic particularly for their captain Luciana Aymar, the seven-time world player of the year, who retired after the final match.

She and her countrymen had hoped that she would finish off a glorious career with the Olympic gold on her 35th birthday but that was not to be. Aymar said they did everything possible to threaten the Dutch but the latter was a very good side and nothing worked out in their favour. Argentina won consecutive bronzes at the 2004 Athens Games and 2008 Beijing Games. Both times, they had lost to the Netherlands in the semifinals. They did well this time to reach the final despite losing 0-1 in their opening match against the USA, who finished last in the tournament.

In the bronze-medal match, hosts Great Britain put up a superb display to beat New Zealand 3-1. Skipper Kate Walsh, who broke her jaw just a week ago, played an inspiring role in the win. All the goals were scored in a more absorbing second half.

Alex Danson, Crista Cullen and Sarah Thomas scored between the 45th and 63rd minutes and all the goals came from penalty corners. Stacey Michelson converted a penalty corner to make it 3-1 in the 68th minute. New Zealand although lost to a spirited Great Britain team, which was left dejected after the semifinal loss to Argentina, but yet put up their best-ever Olympic performance by finishing fourth.

In the 5th-6th spot classification match played earlier, former champions Australia beat Beijing runners-up China 2-0 in a hard-fought match. Jodie Schulz and Jade Close scored for the Australians. In the other classification match, Belgium beat the USA 2-1 to finish 11th in their maiden Olympics. Alix Gerniers and Gaelle Valcke scored for the Red Panthers while Paige Selenski pulled one back for the USA.

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