Belgium’s men alive in the championship hunt, USA women take a leap to avoid relegation

A spectacular win over Spain helped Belgium to continue their odyssey in FIH Hockey League, USA women gave their all in the last match to jump over from the relegation

(Hockey news) An assertive 5-1 victory over Spain for Belgium’s men confirmed the FIH Hockey Pro League title fight will go down to one last exhilarating showdown in Antwerp. The win means their final clash of the season, against the Netherlands on Tuesday, will determine the destination of the trophy. Belgium need a win against the Dutch to claim it while even a shoot-out loss would be enough for the Netherlands to successfully defend their title. 

Meanwhile, the USA women have left themselves an apparently impossible task to avoid relegation in their final match on Wednesday after going down 5-2 to Germany. The victory meant the Germans wrapped up their campaign on 29 points, presently in fourth place but with the possibility of still being overtaken by Belgium, who have two matches remaining.

(Women’s) United States vs Germany 2-5:

Germany took command from the start when a ball was raised into the circle after diverting off an American stick. Pauline Heinz did well to control it and beat the keeper to score the opener. Just a minute later Charlotte Stapenhorst received the ball at the top of the D and was afforded plenty of space and time to shoot it into the back of the net to double that lead within the first six minutes. 

The Americans played themselves back into the match towards the end of the first quarter and worked to block the German attack in the second period. But a German penalty corner in the third quarter resulted in US keeper Kelsey Bing making two outstanding saves before Lena Micheel’s third attempt finally got the better of her. Micheel was back in action when she passed in for Jette Fleschütz to drill in Germany’s fourth. They took their foot off the pedal somewhat in the final period and the hard-working USA were finally rewarded for their efforts when Amanda Golini bulleted one in from just inside the circle. 

A good team effort then culminated with Danielle Grega slotting in their second. The US keeper was pulled to push for another but that only resulted in Sara Strauss asserting Germany’s fifth against the run of play. That was a painful blow to the USA’s chances of bypassing relegation. They are now left with just one must-win match against Belgium. But more than that, they need to better their battered goal difference if they are to leapfrog New Zealand off the bottom of the table. 

Sonja Zimmerman was named Player of the Match and said: “First of all I’m really proud of what our team has achieved throughout the last three weeks. It’s been a rollercoaster and I can really proudly say that we are making the right steps every week.” 

(Men’s) Belgium vs Spain 5-1:

Unlike their last encounter, where the Belgians were 5-1 up by half-time, it was a peaceful first half in Antwerp. The home side relished much of the possession but only had four shots on goal to Spain’s two. That all changed in the second half, however. Right at the start of the third quarter, Belgium began a speedy counterattack from the Spanish backline – Felix Denayer’s pinpoint pass finding Sébastien Dockier who had all the time in the world to line up his shot and power it into the back of the net.   

Five minutes later, Arno van Dessel’s strike was held by the Spanish keeper, but the ball hopped out to the top of the D where Nicolas de Kerpel pounced on it to fire in Belgium’s second. That appeared to open the floodgates. Alex Hendrickx drilled in the third off a penalty corner which took a big deflection off a Spanish defender, and less than a minute later, Victor Wegnez blasted in their fourth. 

There was, even more, to come in the final quarter, Hendrickx pulling one into the right of a goal off another penalty corner. Spain managed to pull one back in the last five minutes of the match when Gerard Clapes slotted it in off a penalty corner rebound but it was too little too late, with the home side romping to a 5-1 win. 

Belgium’s Florent van Aubel was awarded Player of the Match and said: “I think we weren’t really happy with the loss two days ago, so we had to show a new face today. That’s what we did and we put ourselves in a position that tomorrow we can show another Belgium than we did two days ago, We have to prove something tomorrow against the young Dutch guys. It’ll be a nice challenge for both of us so we’re really looking forward to it.”

Also read: Hockey India names women’s team for Germany tour and four-nation tournament in Spain


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