Having kicked off in October last year, the men’s 2022-23 FIH Hockey Pro League season came down to one final thrilling title decider between Belgium and the Netherlands in Antwerp. And it was the Dutch defending champions who clinched a rousing 4-2 victory to lift the trophy once again. The victory saw the Netherlands finishing the season top of the table on 35 points.
Meanwhile, earlier in the evening, it was another fiercely contested encounter between the Belgian and Dutch women’s sides. But it was the already-crowned FIH Hockey Pro League champions, the Netherlands, who prevailed 2-1. That saw them wrapping up their campaign on an impressive 46 points after 15 victories, and just the one shoot-out loss to Australia. The Belgians have one game remaining, against the USA on Wednesday. A victory there will see them leapfrogging Germany into fourth place.
Both on-field umpires in the second match wore black armbands as a mark of respect for Scottish Performance Programme Manager Derek Forsyth, who after a short illness, sadly passed away last week.
(Women’s) Belgium vs Netherlands 1-2
Just like in their previous encounter three days ago, a hard-fought first half didn’t yield any goals. Both sides looked dangerous on the counterattack and both created numerous opportunities. But it wasn’t until the third quarter that the breakthrough came – and it was the home side that took the lead. An excellent solo attack from Delphine Marien saw her outrunning the Dutch defence and firing the ball into goal.
Some ill-discipline cost the home side in the final seconds of the quarter, however as they conceded a penalty corner and allowed Yibbi Jansen to add to her considerable haul by slotting the equaliser into the left corner. Jansen then found what proved to be the winner for the Dutch in the final period off another perfectly finished penalty corner, rocketing it into the back of the net. That took Jansen to 14 goals in the competition this season, finishing well out in front on the goal scorers’ list.
While Belgium threw everything into the final minutes of the match, the Dutch defence held firm as the FIH Hockey Pro League champions signed off their season with a 2-1 victory.
Margot van Geffen was named Player of the Match and said: “They defended very well and their coach [Raoul Ehren] knows us well. So it was hard and a tough fight but I’m happy that we won two times and we ended up winning the Pro League and also with two wins after that. I’m really proud of the team that we could finish strong as well.”
(Men’s) Belgium vs Netherlands 2-4
With so much on the line, this was always going to be a fiery, fast-paced clash. And the match that saw Belgian John-John Dohman equalling Dutchman Teun de Nooijer’s all-time appearance record in internationals with a 453rd cap didn’t disappoint.
The Belgians looked like a different team to the one that was drubbed 6-1 by the same opposition just three days earlier. It was a rare defensive error from Arthur de Sloover, who slipped and lost control of the ball that allowed Thijs van Dam to pounce and blast in the Netherlands’ opener. Alex Hendrickx drew his side level off a penalty corner in the second quarter, his powerful drag flying past the right post player. But Jip Janssen put his side back in the lead off a Dutch penalty corner and Thierry Brinkman fired them even further in front with a simple tap-in after an aerial ball into the circle caught the Belgian defence off-guard.
Within the first minute of the second half, Hendrickx had pulled one back for the Belgians again off another penalty corner. And while their attack was unrelenting, they just couldn’t find the equaliser. Instead, Boris Burkhardt pushed the Dutch lead back out to two goals when he rifled one in from just millimetres inside the circle, and ultimately secured the 4-2 victory – and with it, the FIH Hockey Pro League trophy.
Jip Janssen was named Player of the Match and said: “I think the last game gave a lot of confidence and we were fresh, we had a lot of energy still in the legs while they played yesterday. We knew that if we brought that energy we would be the winner of the match so it’s a very good feeling.”
To see the current standings in the FIH Hockey Pro League, click here.
FIH Pro League – 4 July 2023
Sportcentrum Wilrijkse Plein – Antwerp (BEL)
Result: Women’s Match 71
Belgium 1-2 Netherlands
Player of the Game: Margot van Geffen (NED)
Umpires: Alison Keogh (IRL), Michiel Otten (NED), Irene Presenqui (ARG-video)
Result: Men’s Match 71
Belgium 2-4 Netherlands
Player of the Game: Jip Janssen (NED)
Umpires: Martin Madden (SCO), Sarah Wilson (SCO) Alison Keogh (IRL-video)