Belgium men win a nail-biter to culminate a riveting day of action in the FIH Hockey Pro League

A tough encounter between Belgium and Australia of 9 goals for both sides, ended up with Belgium taking over Australia and staying ahead by one goal, Netherlands Women smashing a win over the USA by 6-0, with New Zealand gaining possession over Argentina and The Great Britain enjoyed an appealing win over Germany

(Hockey news) FIH Hockey Pro League action resumed in London and Antwerp with 4 men’s and 4 women’s teams in action. Netherlands women were the first to get on the board with a 6-0 win over USA, who played a solid 50 minutes game but tired out towards the end conceding 4 goals in the last 10 minutes. 

New Zealand dazed Argentina in the second women’s game of the day taking 3 crucial points in the elimination battle. Great Britain gave their home crowd a lot to cheer for as they took over Germany by  3-0 in the first men’s match of the day. The final match of the evening was held between Belgium and Australia men, with a sensational  9-goal contest giving the fans plenty of thrills, as home side Belgium edged out Australia in the final minutes to win 5-4. 

(Men’s) Belgium vs Australia 5-4:

A panic-stricken opening quarter saw both teams score a goal each. Belgium (Men) unbolts the scoring much to the delight of the home crowd as a slip by Hayward in defence allowed Nelson Onana to swoop and score past a helpless Charter. 

Australia kept a high press frequently turning over possession and were finally rewarded a score by gaining their 5th penalty corner of the game as Vanasch saved the initial sweep by Govers, but the rebound fell to Beale who had an open goal to pass the ball into. Belgium snatched the lead back in the second quarter through a penalty corner of their own, with Stockbroekx pouncing on an initial save by Charter to bury a powerful shot into the goal. 

Australia leveled the score in the third quarter from yet another penalty corner. The trap at the top of the circle was not clean, but Hayward collected the ball and played it to Whetton, whose shot took two deflections off Belgian sticks and went in. Australia took over on a Belgium yellow card to mount the pressure and force a turnover in defence and Atkin’s cross inside the circle was deflected in by Whetton in front of the goal to give the visitors their first lead. 

Belgium got back level in the initial minute of the final quarter as the ball from the right fell to Arthur de Sloover at the top of the circle to the left and his vicious hit beat Charter on the near post. With just over 5 minutes left in the game Australia turned over possession inside their own 23m and Onana found Arno van Dessel at the top of the circle and his enormous hit gave Charter no chance.

Australia was not yet done however and found another equaliser with 3 minutes left as Blake Govers deflected in a cross by Tim Brand from point-blank range. With less than 2 minutes left in the game Belgium again figured out a way to get ahead with Luypaert sending a penalty corner low to the centre that went through the legs of Charter and into the goal, in what would prove to be the determining goal. 

Victor Wegnez was awarded player of the match and said: “Very tired at the end of that game but great feeling. We haven’t played in front of our home crowd in nearly a year and while the defence wasn’t great for either side, at least we gave the crowd a great show and a win at the end of it all.”

(Women’s) Netherlands vs USA 6-0: 

Netherlands(Women) came racing out of the blocks early in the game, pressing high and forcing turnovers from the USA defence. They couldn’t find the target from their first two penalty corners of the opening quarter, but a third one brought the opening goal as the rebound from a save fell to Jochems, whose shot across the face of the goal was deflected in by Dicke. Joosje Burg doubled the Dutch lead in the second quarter with a strong reverse shot from the left that was unfortunately deflected into her own goal by Sumfest.

After a tight third quarter with some magnificent defence from USA, the floodgates opened in the final ten minutes as Netherlands scored four goals in eight minutes. The first of the four came through a penalty stroke scored by Renee van Laarhoven. Just 20 seconds later a cross from the diversion came all the way through to Dicke at the far post for the easiest of tap-ins. Veen and Fokke added a fifth and sixth as the USA defence started to tire out, giving the Dutch women a grand victory. 

Freeke Moes was named as player of the match and said: “Credit to the USA, they played a really good game and I think they started the game with a lot more energy than we did. We were much better in the second half as we started to play with more speed. So a good result overall.”

(Women’s) Argentina vs New Zealand 1-2:

After a stabilised start to the opening quarter, New Zealand (Women) initiated the scoring from a brilliant counterattack as Olivia Shannon brought the ball forward and played a 1-2 pass with Merry, and placed the ball through the legs of the Argentinian keeper. Valentina Costa drew Argentina back level in the 20th minute, sending a drag flick from a penalty corner through the legs of two New Zealand defenders and into the goal.

New Zealand retrieved their lead in the final minute of the third quarter, as a dazzling penalty corner routine saw Olivia Merry send a grounded pass to the far right where a diving Hope Ralph diverted the ball into an open goal. 

Argentina tried their best to get back level till the very end but found it hard to convert their chances, especially from penalty corners, turning just one of their ten set pieces. As the time ran out New Zealand celebrated their first win in 6 matches, which gave them crucial three points in their relegation battle against USA and China.

Olivia Shannon was awarded the player of the match and said: “It is a big win against a big team and one that we really needed. Our last few games we have had leads but weren’t able to close the games and taking a lead into the final quarter today, we had to see it out and we did, so I am really happy for the team. 

(Men’s) Great Britain vs Germany 3-0:

Great Britain and Germany played a highly appealing first half creating plenty of chances on both sides. Great Britain opened the scoring after a trademark Wallace run into the circle almost led to a shot, but he was obstructed right before he could get it away by a dangling stick of Peillat, winning GB a penalty stroke.

Nicolas Bandurak stepped up and placed the ball accurately into the top left corner to give GB the lead. Germany’s best chances came via penalty corners, but while Peillat managed to put plenty of power on his shots, he was unable to hit the target on a couple of occasions as the hosts headed into the break up a goal.

Both teams scuffled to convert their chances in the third quarter with some outstanding defending coming to the fore, with Stadler stepping up twice on 1-on-1 chances to pull unbelievable saves, while Sorsby saved a definite goal from a penalty corner on the goal-line.

Great Britain doubled their lead in the final quarter with James Gall pouncing on a penalty corner rebound to beat Stadler in goal. Sam Ward added a third goal in the 59th minute as GB won a penalty corner with Germany having subbed their keeper out for an additional outfield player, giving Ward an easy target to hit.

Jacob Draper was named the player of the match and said: “Very happy with the win today. We were unhappy with some of our performances last week and I think we righted some of the wrongs today and I think we gave the home crowd a good show.”

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