France defeat distraught Dutch, advance to gold medal match
In a replay of their earlier meeting in group play, France and Netherlands knew exactly what to expect from each other.
Again it was France who came out as victors with a narrow 24-23 win.
It were the Dutch who came off stronger, feeding off opportunities on the fast break to take a quick two goal advantage. Following a brief dry spell early after her team’s mishandlings with ball, Alexandra Lacrabere took it upon herself to find her rhythm in shooting from distance.
Once the French slowed down the pace of the game they began to find their footing and suddenly reversed the two goal advantage. That staunch French defense was in full force again, giving such little space through which the Dutch could work.
The Dutch defense didn’t hold up as well as France’s and Siraba Dembele and Allison Pineau managed to wrestle their way into that six meter mark.
Estavana Pollman, the Netherlands’ leading scorer for the tournament, was held to just one goal in the first half.
The French continued pushing the Dutch back and forced them to slow down play.
With Pollman’s troubles finding her way onto goal, it was Laura van der Heijden who took the helm in scoring for the Dutch. Briefly abandoning the quick play to the six meter mark, the Dutchwoman brought her team to within two with a goal from long range.
Other players picked up on the long range efforts and Lois Abbingh’s brought Netherlands back to within one goal of the French.
Tess Wester had another solid game in goal – the Dutch keeper’s saves was the starting point in re-upping the tempo once more.
Five minutes remaining and the Dutch still had some work to do – trailing behind ever since the opening minutes of the game. First thing: recollect themselves after some anxious play up front.
The Dutch recomposed after a timeout did well to force the penalty shot that van der Heijden would put away, cutting the lead down to one.
A fumbled pass by the French gave Netherlands an opportunity to level, but Angela Malestein’s strike from the wing was saved by the French keeper, giving France a one minute to hold the lead with possession.
The Dutch had one more chance in the final 25 seconds to level the game and had a one player advantage after Gnonsione Niombla was given a two minute suspension.
Abbingh’s last-second shot just barely ricocheted off the post, sending France to the gold medal match on Sunday.