Great Britain’s men were dealt another blow in their final match of their FIH Hockey Pro League campaign, beaten 3-2 by Spain on home soil in London. The back-to-back losses meant they finished on 32 points and top of the table for now, but with Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands hot on their heels with several matches still in hand. The GB women, meanwhile, finished on a high with a 2-1 win over the USA. Over in Antwerp the night belonged to Belgium – their women’s side holding on for a 2-1 victory over New Zealand and the men winning 1-0 over the same opposition.
(Women’s) Belgium vs New Zealand 2-1
Having gone down 7-0 in their previous encounter, New Zealand would have experienced a sense of déjà vu when the Belgians struck just 40 seconds into the match. After earning a quick penalty corner, Stephanie Vanden Borre dragged the ball into the top left corner.
It was then only 30 seconds into the second quarter that Belgium stuck again. Barbara Nelen found Emily White in front of goal who lifted it over the keeper for the home side’s second.
New Zealand played their way back in the second half and with just over three minutes remaining in the match, a great pass from Megan Hull found captain Olivia Merry in the circle whose initial attempt was saved, only for Tayla White to bury the rebound for her first senior international goal. But it was too little too late as the Belgians had done enough to hold on for the 2-1 win.
Stephanie Vanden Borre was named Player of the Match and said: “I think we had a good start. The first half was good but in the second half we lacked some energy and we dropped a bit back. We didn’t need to do that so we let them back into the game and we should have scored some more goals in the beginning.”
(Women’s) Great Britain vs USA 2-1
GB were awarded a penalty corner in the second quarter and the initial shot was aimed at the right post for the deflection, but the ball bounced to Sophie Hamilton to lift it in.
With just six seconds remaining in the third quarter Megan Rodgers fired in from wide of goal and Sanne Caarls got the faintest of touches in the air to secure the equaliser. That meant there was all to play for in the final period.
GB broke the deadlock with two and a half minutes left on the clock, Lily Owsley bouncing it in off a reworked penalty corner after a sustained period of pressure. That proved the difference between the sides, as the home team sealed the 2-1 victory.
Lily Owsley was named Player of the Match and said: “We’re absolutely chuffed. It’s been a hard Pro League season. It’s been up and down, the consistency has not been quite there for us so it’s really nice to finish like that… it’s great tournament practice and winning your last game is important so I’m glad we did.”
(Men’s) Great Britain vs Spain 2-3
GB created much of the early pressure. But against the run of play, a phenomenal strike from Marc Reyne after receiving a pass from just inside the half gave the Spanish the lead. The home side found the equaliser when a rebound off a penalty corner bobbled out for Nick Bandurak to fire it in for his 12th Pro League goal this season.
GB’s second came when James Oates worked the ball in for Phil Roper who get the better of the Spanish defence on the stroke of half-time to take his team into the break 2-1 up. But Spain came back at them when Ollie Payne failed to deal with a fairly regulation strike from Borja Lacalle.
The Spanish then scored what turned out to be the winner less than 10 minutes later when Pau Cunill’s shot hit a GB defender’s foot on the way into the circle. The umpire played advantage but the defence had already let their guard down in anticipation of the penalty corner being awarded and Alvaro Iglesias took advantage, handed plenty of time and space to fire his team in front.
Borja Lacalle was named Player of the Match and said: “It was an amazing mini-tournament for us, really tough, a lot of running in these four or five days and we’re very happy for this finish.”
(Men’s) Belgium vs New Zealand 1-0
The Black Sticks started well but couldn’t prevent the Belgians from scoring the opening goal from a penalty corner, Tanguy Cosyns delivering a powerful drag into the top left corner.
The Olympic champions looked a little flat for the remainder of the half and couldn’t add to their tally against a determined Black Sticks side looking to avoid relegation.
A hard-fought second half brought no further change to the score despite numerous opportunities for the Belgians, but they managed to hold on and claim the 1-0 win and with that, the all-important three points.
John-John Dohmen was named Player of the Match and said: “We played OK, not the best game but we played well and New Zealand defended really well. They did well too so it was not easy for us today… It’s a really good feeling because we tested a lot of young guys, some guys also in new positions, and we won almost every game so we can be really happy with that.”
To see the current standings in the FIH Hockey Pro League, click here.
FIH Pro League – 21 June 2023
Sportcentrum Wilrijkse Plein – Antwerp (BEL)
Result: Women’s Match 59
Belgium 2-1 New Zealand
Player of the Game: Stephanie Vanden Borre (BEL)
Umpires: Michelle Meister (GER), Liu Xiaoying (CHN), Coen van Bunge (NED-video)
Result: Men’s Match 60
Belgium 1-0 New Zealand
Player of the Game: John-John Dohmen (BEL)
Umpires: Martin Madden (SCO), Annelize Rostron (RSA), Coen van Bunge (NED-video)
Lee Valley Tennis and Hockey Centre, London (GBR)
Result: Men’s Match 59
Great Britain 2-3 Spain
Player of the Game: Borja Lacalle (ESP)
Umpires: German Montes de Oca (ARG), Alison Keogh (IRL), Tyler Klenk (CAN-video)
Result: Women’s Match 60
Great Britain 2-1 USA
Player of the Game: Lily Owsley (GBR)
Umpires: Tyler Klenk (CAN), Céline Martin-Schmets (BEL), Alison Keogh (IRL-video)