An emphatic 5-1 victory over Spain for Belgium’s men ensured the FIH Hockey Pro League title fight will go down to one last thrilling 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 ashoot-out loss would be enough for the Netherlands to successfully defend their title. Meanwhile, the USA women have left themselves a seemingly 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 – currently in fourthplace 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 control from the start when a ball was lifted into the circle after deflecting 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 fire 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 managed to thwart the German attack in the second period. But a German penalty corner in the third quarter resulted in US keeper Kelsey Bing making two great 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 Gregaslotting in their second. The US keeper was pulled to push for another but that only resulted in Sara Strauss claiming Germany’s fifth against the run of play.
That was a painful blow to the USA’s chances of avoiding 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 proudof what our team has achieved throughout the last three weeks. It’s been a rollercoasterand I can really proudly say that we are making the right steps every week.”
(Men’s) Belgium vs Spain 5–1
Unlike their previous encounter, where the Belgians were 5-1 up by half–time, it was a subdued first half in Antwerp. The home side enjoyed much of the possession but onlyhad 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’spinpoint 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 saved by the Spanish keeper, but the ball bounced out to the top of the D where Nicolas de Kerpel pounced on it to fire in Belgium’s second. That seemed 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 dragging one into the right of 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 named 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.”
To see the current standings in the FIH Hockey Pro League, click here.
FIH Pro League – 3 July 2023
Sportcentrum Wilrijkse Plein – Antwerp (BEL)
Result: Women’s Match 70
USA 2–5 Germany
Player of the Game: Sonja Zimmerman (GER)
Umpires: Irene Presenqui (ARG), Michiel Otten (NED), Sarah Wilson (SCO-video)
Result: Men’s Match 70
Belgium 5–1 Spain
Player of the Game: Florent van Aubel (BEL)
Umpires: Martin Madden (SCO), Alison Keogh (IRL), Michiel Otten (NED-video)