Double FIH Hockey Pro League joy for Belgium against Australia in Sydney
The national teams of Belgium enjoyed an extremely fruitful away day on Sunday, with both the Red Panthers and the Red Lions getting the better of home favourites Australia in weather affected FIH Hockey Pro League fixtures at Sydney Olympic Park.
For the second time in successive days, Australia and Belgium’s women needed a shoot-out to decide the destination of the bonus point, with the Red Panthers avenging Saturday’s loss in the one-on-ones with a 3-1 victory on Sunday.
In a match that featured delays due to soaring temperatures and a thunderstorm, the Hockeyroos had to wait until the end of the third quarter before Gabi Nance put the hosts ahead, deflecting home after a long period of Australian dominance. However, the Belgians hit back early in the fourth quarter thanks to Tiphaine Duquesne’s fierce penalty corner strike to tie the match at 1-1 and force a shoot-out. Louise Versavel, Duquesne and Barbara Nelen all converted in the one-on-ones, giving the Belgians a fine result against their higher-ranked opponents.
“It was a really tough game actually, also with the big break [due to the weather]”, said Belgium’s Emma Puvrez, who was named Player of the Match, in the post-match interview. “I think we played really well and worked really hard together. We really stuck together.”
Australia’s Amy Lawton said: “The girls worked really hard, we were unfortunate in the end, but credit to Belgium, they did really well today. I guess it just shows the quality of the Pro League. We are all lucky to be a part of it.”
Having taken the world number 1 ranking position from their opponents thanks to a shoot-out bonus point earned on Saturday, Belgium men came into Sunday’s second meeting knowing that a positive result for the hosts would put the Kookaburras back at the top of the rankings. However, a superb 4-2 win ensured that the Red Lions will leave Australia with their position as the world top-ranked team intact, with the reigning World and European champions taking five points from a possible six against the winners of the 2019 FIH Hockey Pro League.
Player of the Match Alexander Hendrickx put Belgium into a 2-0 lead before a cracking backhand strike from Australia’s Lachlan Sharp reduced the deficit. A wonderful deflection into the roof of the net from Maxime Plennevaux put Belgium 3-1 up with four minutes remaining, forcing Australia to go for broke and replace their goalkeeper with an outfield player. That tactic backfired when a rapid Belgian breakaway allowed Emmanuel Stockbroekx to slap into an unguarded net before Jeremy Hayward bagged a final minute consolation penalty corner goal for the Kookaburras.
“I think we are very pleased”, said Alexander Hendrickx post-match. “We started the game well, we took control of the pace, we held the ball in the team and I think it was a deserved win. We took the number one spot from Australia yesterday, and I think we will try to hold onto it as long as possible.”
Australia co-captain Eddie Ockenden said: “We were in the game a lot today and it was a close match, but we need to play a bit better and that will come in the next few weeks. That’s the great thing about the Pro League, we play the best teams in the world, twice, every year and that is fantastic. To play a great team in our first two games has been awesome for us to learn and get better.”
Sunday’s late game between USA and reigning World, European and FIH Hockey Pro League champions the Netherlands, which takes to place in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, will be worth double points. The first match between the two sides, due to take place on Friday (24 January), was cancelled as a mark of respect following the tragic death of USA National Teams Manager Larry Amar. In accordance with the League’s regulations for a cancelled match, the points of this match will count double (6 points for the winning team, no point for the losing team; in case of a shoot-out, the team winning the shoot-out will get 4 points and the losing team 2 points).
FIH Hockey Pro League
Match Day 7 – Sunday 26 January 2020
Sydney Olympic Park (AUS)
Women’s result: Australia 1, Belgium 1 – 1-3 After Shoot-Out (Match 2 of 2)
Player of the Match: Emma Puvrez (BEL)
Umpires: Michelle Joubert (RSA), Amber Church (NZL) & Raghu Prasad (IND – video)
Men’s result: Australia 2, Belgium 4 (Match 2 of 2)
Player of the Match: Alexander Hendrickx (BEL)Umpires: Simon Taylor (NZL), Raghu Prasad (IND) & Amber Church (NZL – video)
Match Day 7 – Late Game
Chapel Hill (USA) – Women: USA v Netherlands (Match 1 of 1)
Time: 1400 (GMT/UTC -5)