The Olympic champions managed to line up a 10th meeting without defeat in this Pro League (2-2). But they suffered against England, who did not let them develop their game.
For their last duties in the Pro League, the Belgian players faced England with the desire to close this 3rd season of the world competition with 2 new successes. Still without Arthur Van Doren, Antoine Kina and Loick Luypaert, Michel van den Heuvel’s men took the initiative in this first duel of the weekend in a busy Lee Valley Stadium despite the gloomy and cool weather in London, in this mid-afternoon. They tried to develop their game by playing from the flanks but the opposing block was well in place and left very little space for the attackers. In the 13th minute, the English inherited the first chance of the match with a penalty from Nicholas Bandurak well repelled by Loic Van Doren.
The Red Lions were struggling during this first period because they rarely managed to penetrate the opposing circle and certainly not to create danger. And in the 22nd minute, it was finally Will Calnan who sent a shell into the ceiling of the goal. An opening of the score finally deserved for the local team a little more applied on this start of the meeting. A goal that woke Belgians a little apathetic. And, 120 seconds later, they got 2 pc in a row but Tom Boon’s tries were unsuccessful. During these first 30 minutes, the Olympic champions were hardly inspired. There was far too much rubbish in their game to worry about a diligent but, yet, far from impressive local team. However, 8 seconds before the break, the Lions obtained a magnificent possibility via Nicolas De Kerpel but Oliver Payne intervened. The Belgians then claimed a stroke on this action but they saw their video appeal rejected.
An equalizer at the last minute
After the break, it did not take 2 minutes for the English to double their lead via Will Calnan who took advantage of a little laxity in the circle to place a precise shot beyond the reach of Loic Van Doren. But the Red Lions reacted fortunately in stride and Arthur De Sloover scored a beautiful goal by placing a precise and powerful backhand shot just under the crossbar (2-1). Then, over the minutes, the Belgians played better and better and gained the upper hand over their opponents but without obtaining any real possibilities.
The last quarter was of the same ilk. Goodwill but little or no opportunity. In the 53rd minute, the Olympic champions obtained a third penalty but Tom Boon’s sleep did not reach its target. It was then Alexander Hendrickx who received his chance, twice on pc but he was no luckier on his attempts. In the 59th minute, the Antwerp central defender finally managed to equalize on the 6th penalty of the afternoon (2-2). During the shoot-out session, it was the local team that proved to be the most skilful (3-0) and left with the bonus point.
Work on the connections and the last gesture
“We had difficulty creating good opportunities in front of the opposing goal,” admitted Nicolas Poncelet when he left the field. “But you have to recognize that England played very well. Not everything was bad this afternoon but we are going to calmly analyze this meeting on video to correct what was less good. We nevertheless offered good hockey even if we did not struggle in the opposing circle. It will therefore be necessary to work on the connections and the last passes. I also think we defended well. There is no weariness and we certainly want to end this Pro League season on a positive note. We are all professional enough not to fall into this trap. Tomorrow we will go back to coal. This team does not like to lose but we are currently in the process of continuing our development. The result is therefore not essential even if we make every effort to rectify the situation on Sunday