Euro Hockey: England men beaten by Netherlands

By Ollie WilliamsBBC Sport in Moenchengladbach, Germany

A Billy Bakker hat-trick handed the Dutch a 4-3 victory over England's men in their Euro Hockey clash on Monday.

Matt Daly cancelled out Bakker's opener for the Netherlands, but Taeke Taekema converted a penalty shot and Bakker immediately punched in his second.

Daly grabbed another before Bakker's third secured an enthralling win, despite Ashley Jackson's late goal.

Defending champions England face France in their final group game on Wednesday with a semi-final place at stake.

"They played well. We maybe contributed to it a little bit with a couple of mistakes," England captain Barry Middleton told BBC Sport.

"We weren't completely at our best - so maybe they just shaded it. But I don't think they were a lot better than us at all."

England, the bulk of whose players will form the British squad for the Olympic Games next year, beat Germany 5-3 to win the last European Championships in 2009.

Germany, this year's hosts, are expected to pose the main threat to their title defence alongside Spain and the Netherlands, all of whom are ranked in the world's top five.

The Dutch put England out of last year's World Cup in India, denying them a bronze medal, and had the better of the first half as the two met again at Moenchengladbach's Warsteiner HockeyPark.

Bakker lashed home from distance to open the scoring but Daly's composure to control and convert a fast-paced cross at close range earned England an equaliser.

England showed creativity and ambition but generated few clear chances, while James Fair produced a string of saves in goal to limit the damage done by a flowing Dutch attack.

The opening of the second half turned the game as Taekema and Bakker struck in succession to stun England.

Bakker's third looked to have killed off the tie despite Daly touching home a second on the goal-line, but Jackson pounced on a Dutch defensive error to set up a pulsating finale under the floodlights.

The Netherlands' Roderick Weusthof had a penalty corner strike chalked off by the video referee in the dying moments.

"We gave them a couple of goals and that made it hard work to come back," said Middleton.

"We want to entertain and play exciting hockey, we think that's what the sport's about. We knew it was going to be open and exciting."

The men's group stage concludes on Wednesday when England face France in their remaining game.

A win will strengthen their chances of reaching the semi-finals but if - as seems unlikely - Ireland beat the Netherlands, those two teams could progress at England's expense regardless of their result.

Tuesday sees the women's group stage come to a close as the English team, who have already made sure of their place in the semi-finals, play Ireland.

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