Women’s FIH Pro League
England 1 Belgium 4
Belgium’s women avenged their previous day’s 2-1 defeat to England in clinical fashion, running out 4-1 winners at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in somewhat warmer conditions compared with those of the first meeting.
England fielded an unchanged 18 player squad, whilst Belgium made one change, Abi Raye replacing France De Mot, however they were also forced into a second late change when Ambre Bellenghien was injured during the warm-up, with Tiphaine Duquesne replacing her, although Duquesne didn’t enter the field of play until the final minute. Bellenghien was also due to be in the starting line-up, but Alexia ‘T Serstevens started the game instead. Belgium again rotated their goalkeepers by quarter, but it was Aisling D’Hooghe’s turn to start the match in the Belgian goal.
England had forced an early penalty corner in Game One, but Belgium had two second minute penalty corner opportunities but Stephanie Vanden Borre was frustrated on both occasions, having failed to convert from three awards in the previous match.
A minute later, Tess Howard tried to replicate her equalising goal on Saturday, rotating after having her back to goal, but struck the outside of the left sideboard.
For the second day running, Belgium took the lead, this time after the ball was turned over just inside the England half. Judith Vandermeiren crossed from the left, Vanden Borre got a deft touch towards the right post with the ball deflected over the line off Giselle Ansley’s stick in the twelfth minute.
Elena Sotgiu duly replaced D’Hooghe in the Belgian goal for the second quarter. Louise Versavel crossed from the left, but the ball sped across the circle to the England defenders’ relief early in the quarter, but Alix Gerniers went closer in the 18th minute, Maddie Hinch forced to make a glove save at the right post and a minute later, Hinch had to save again, this time from Barbara Nelen as Belgium maintained pressure on the England goal.
Both teams succeeded in passing the ball around the pitch, with Izzy Petter forcing a save from Sotgiu four minutes before the interval after receiving the ball from Holly Hunt and Petter was unlucky a minute later as she couldn’t make contact with Anna Toman’s cross from the right.
Belgium doubled their lead in the 28th minute and England had only themselves to blame as they continually lost possession in their circle before Justine Rasir made them pay with a shot into the top left corner which gave Hinch no chance.
Having dominated, Belgium had Sotgiu to thank for a save on the half time hooter, Hunt denied on the goal line to take Belgium’s clean sheet into the third quarter.
Belgium’s penalty corner frustration finally came to an end in the 33rd minute as Vanden Borre finally converted the third of three successive awards in 21 seconds, her drag-flick ending up in the English net to give Belgium a commanding 3-0 lead.
England finally won a penalty corner in the 37th minute, Grace Balsdon’s shot blocked, and then Belgium faced a mini crisis as they were temporarily reduced to nine players, Hélène Brasseur shown a green card in the 39th minute with Emma Puvrez joining her on the naughty step a minute later.
In the 41st minute, Belgium were back to ten players, but Sophie Hamilton’s hard hit cross from the left was poked home by Howard, who scored for the second day running as England dreamt of another comeback.
A minute later, England used their video referral wisely to earn their second penalty corner, Ansley’s shot blocked with a follow up shot from Ellie Rayer saved by D’Hooghe, before another penalty corner was awarded. This time Balsdon’s shot was saved by D’Hooghe’s outstretched kicker and after the ball left the circle, Hamilton was in possession on the right of the circle when a penalty stroke was awarded. Belgium immediately video referred but the stroke decision was upheld.
Balsdon missed the chance to join Howard on the scoresheet again as D’Hooghe made a glove save, pushing the ball over the bar and was then mobbed by her teammates for the save in the 43rd minute.
Sotgiu was back in goal for the fourth quarter and nearly conceded in the 47th minute, Howard poking the ball past the left post, unaware that Hunt was immediately to her left and in perfect position to poke the ball over the goal-line from short range.
Two minutes later, Hannah Martin was left sprawling near the halfway line by Vanden Borre, but immediately recovered.
Any hope of a comeback effectively ended five minutes from time when Charlotte Englebert and Michelle Struijk’s deft touches evaded Hollie Pearne-Webb allowing Rasir, after being challenged by Toman to flick the ball past Hinch and into the far corner to score Belgium’s fourth goal and secure the win.
Hinch was sacrificed for an eleventh outfield player, with ‘T Serstevens clipping the outside of the left post in the 57th minute with an empty net at her mercy.
Having not been able to face India away from home, England completed their programme having played 14 of 16 scheduled matches and are currently sixth, but with Germany and China, the two teams immediately below them, due to face each other on 25 and 26 June and China also scheduled to face the Netherlands, England’s final position will not be decided until the end of the tournament.
Belgium climbed up to fourth, a point ahead of fifth placed Spain, who completed their fixtures against the United States in Antwerp a week earlier, and will only know if they can catch third placed India following India’s double header against the United States in Rotterdam on 21 and 22 June. India hold a two point advantage over Belgium, who will also complete their fixtures against the United States on 25 and 26 June.
Scorer: Tess Howard 41-F
Starters: Maddie Hinch (GK); Anna Toman, Hannah Martin, Holly Hunt, Izzy Petter, Hollie Pearne-Webb (Capt.), Fiona Crackles, Sophie Hamilton, Lily Owsley, Flora Peel, Grace Balsdon.
Subs: Laura Unsworth (2 mins), Ellie Rayer (2), Tess Howard (2), Giselle Ansley (2), Shona McCallin (2), Lily Walker (2).
Sub not used: Sabbie Heesh (GK).
Cards: Green: Shona McCallin (35 mins).
Scorers: Stephanie Vanden Borre 12-F, 33-PC; Justine Rasir 28-F, 55-F.
Starters: Abi Raye, Charlotte Englebert, Judith Vandermeiren, Emma Puvrez, Michelle Struijk (Capt.), Barbara Nelen, Aisling D’Hooghe (GK), Stephanie Vanden Borre, Lien Hillewaert, Alexia ‘T-Serstevens, Hélène Brasseur.
Subs: Justine Rasir (2 mins), Louise Versavel (2), Alix Gerniers (2), Pauline Leclef (2), Lucie Breyne (2), Elena Sotgiu (16), Tiphaine Duquesne (60).
Cards: Green: Hélène Brasseur (39 mins), Emma Puvrez (40 mins).
Umpires: Alison Keogh (Ireland) and Michelle Meister (Germany).