It was another two goals for Tom Boon as Belgium beat South Africa 4-2 and inched ever closer to the top of the FIH Pro League. Their rivals for the second place in the league, India, who play Belgium on Saturday were watching in the stands. Boon's brace means he is four goals behind Harmanpreet Singh at the top of the goalscoring table.
In the women's match between Belgium and China, umpire Celine Martin-Schmets won her golden whistle as she took charge of her 100th senior international match. The match itself was a tepid affair with both teams playing cagey hockey. A 1-1 draw was a fair reflection of the match. China's recent experiences and wins in the shoot-out against England and Spain gave the team the edge in this shoot-out, which they won 2-0.
Belgium vs South Africa (men) – Sportcentrum Wilrijkse Plein-Antwerp (BEL)
In their last match in this season's FIH Hockey Pro League, South Africa took the lead against Belgium in just the second minute of the game. Pressure from the speedy forward team of Nqobile Ntuli amd Dayaan Cassiem drew the foul and Connor Beauchamp was on hand to send the ball high into the net past Loic van Doren.
The Belgium response came five minutes later. Nelson Onana was the recipient of a flowing Belgium move. Cedric Harlier passed to Florent van Aubel, who laid the ball into Onana's path. The late replacement for Tanguy Cosyns made no mistake as he rounded the 'keeper and slipped the ball into the net.
There were no goals in the second quarter as Belgium settled into a game of possession hockey. South Africa made some smart and pacy runs at the Red Lion's defence but found the defence were rock solid.
The third quarter saw Belgium begin to tighten their grip on the game. The free-flowing hockey, which had deserted them slightly in the second quarter, returned and pressure began to mount on South Africa. Florent van Aubel scored the goal that put the home team in the driving seat. He received the ball from Victor Wegnez with his back to goal, spun tightly and placed his shot carefully wide of Siyavuya Noluthshungu in the South Africa goal.
The inevitable Tom Boon show burst into life towards the end of the quarter. The first of his two goals was the result of sheer determination. Boon shot, the rebound fell to Cedric Charlier whose shot was also saved. Boon then picked up the ball and bustled his way through the defence and smashed the ball home.
Minutes later Boon was at it again as he sent home a rocket of a penalty corner. This brings Boon to within
The final say of the match went to South Africa when Connor Beauchamp finished as he started. South Africa had been knocking at the door with some scintillating running, particularly from Nqobile Ntulie and Dayaan Cassiem. Their persistence and skill drew another penalty corner, which Beauchamp sent home with precision amd power.
Player of the Match, Florent van Aubel (BEL) said: 'That was nice, I've been out for seven weeks so it was good to be back. We worked hard to get the connections right. We struggled a bit today but we got the six points so that is good. Now we have India and England and we will need to step up.'
The result moves Belgium to third, level on points with India and one point behind Netherlands. South Africa finish their campaign in final place but Head Coach Gareth Ewing said the experience of playing in the FIH Pro League had seen his team grow with every match.
Belgium vs China (women) – Sportcentrum Wilrijkse Plein-Antwerp (BEL)
The second match between these two teams started as a cagey affair with neither team really troubling the goalkeepers or getting many balls into the circle. Most of the competitive conflict took place in the midfield with turnover and errors the hallmark of both teams.The deadlock was finally broken when a good referral by China's Yuan Meng won China a penalty corner. Gu Bingfeng made no mistake as she sent the ball flying into the net past Aisling D'Hooghe to give her side a 1-0 lead.
It took until the 45th minute for Belgium to find their way back into the game. Barbara Nelen, who had worked hard all match to drive her team forwards, found a way to get a cross past the tight China defence and France le Mot was on hand to bounce the ball past Liu Ping in the China goal.
Both teams looked a little more ambitious in the latter stages of the second half although it was Belgium who looked the more likely to score for large periods of the remaining 10 minutes. Li Hong must have seen her name in lights late in the fourth quarter when the ball fell to her in front of the goal. Her shot skewed wide and the player fell to the ground in disgust at the effort.
And so the game went to shoot-out. China had already won shoot-outs against England and Spain in recent days and so were confident as they lined up. In fact it was the confident performance of Liu Ping in goal which won the bonus point for China. Her assertive approach to the shoot-out proved very successful in rocking the Belgium players and China emerged 2-0 winners of the shoot-out.
Player of the Match Zhang Zindan (CHN) said: 'We didn't play well in the first half yesterday but we played better in the second half, so today we started as we finished the match yesterday. Out goalkeeper is great, she has done well in many matches. We are very happy about our progress. We have beaten teams who are above us in the World rankings so we will be gaining ranking points.'Belgium's Head Coach Raoul Ehrens was obviosuly disappointed that his team had not broken down the China defence but he was pleased with the way the team had improved in the second half.
FIH Hockey Pro League action continues on Saturday 11 June with a fascinating day of fixtures. Spain women will take on USA at 11:00 CEST, with Belgium women then playing India at 14:00 CEST - both these matches will take place at the Sportcentrum Wilrijkse Plein-Antwerp. The third women's match is between Germany and Netherlands and will start at 13:30 CEST. The match takes place at Stadion Am Pfeilshof, Hamburg.
At 16:30 CEST Belgium men will be looking to extend their winning streak and move closer to the top of the table as they play the current second placed team, India. This match is at the Sportcentrum Wilrijkse Plein-Antwerp. Also at 16:30 CEST, Germany men will play the Netherlands in Hamburg.
To see the current men’s FIH Pro League Standings, click here.
To see the current women’s FIH Pro League Standings, click here.
FIH Pro League – 8 June 2022
Sportcentrum Wilrijkse Plein-Antwerp (BEL)
Result: Men’s Match 61
Belgium 4, South Africa 2
Player of the Match: Florent van Aubel (BEL)
Umpires: David Tomlinson (NZL), Coen van Bunge (NED) Liu Xiaoying (CHN-video)
Result: Women’s Match 54
Belgium 1, China 1 (China won shoot-out 2-0)
Player of the Match: Zhang Zindan (CHN)
Umpires: Celine Martin-Schmets (BEL), Liu Xiaoying (CHN), David Tomlinson (NZL -video)