Great Britain’s men consolidated their spot at the top of the FIH Pro League table in front of a sell-out crowd in London with their first victory over Belgium since 2018. In the corresponding women’s fixture, it was the Belgians who gained the upper hand, defeating the hosts 3-2 to complete a perfect weekend after their victory over China a day earlier.
(Men’s) Great Britain vs Belgium 3-1
Belgium enjoyed much of the possession in the first 10 minutes but it was GB who scored against the run of play off their first real opportunity of the match. Zach Wallace found Sam Ward on the baseline who crossed it in for Stuart Rushmere to then find the back of the net.
GB completed a devastating two-minute period of play with another goal. This time Jack Waller took the ball into the circle for Rupert Shipperley to take the shot. Waller had, meanwhile, continued his run towards goal for the follow up and was perfectly placed to slot in the rebound off goalkeeper Loic van Doren’s initial save.
The hosts’ third goal came off a penalty corner, Nick Bandurak firing a clean strike straight down the middle for GB to take a 3-0 advantage into the half-time break.
A brilliant long drag off a penalty corner early in the third quarter saw Belgium pulling one back, Tanguy Cosyns adding his name to the scoresheet.
And while the Belgians had a much stronger second half, piling on the pressure with five consecutive penalty corners at one point, they couldn’t get past a stoic GB defence who ensured the home side clinched a 3-1 win.
Jack Waller was named player of the match and said: “We’re delighted with the three points. We always want to be on the front foot, very hard to beat, however there’s still a lot to improve on and we’re going to be putting that in action next week.
“London is an amazing venue to play hockey at. All the other nations say it and we really feel it and we couldn’t be happier with the crowd. It’s such an amazing atmosphere so thanks very much.”
(Women’s) Great Britain vs Belgium 2-3
Like their male counterparts earlier in the day, the Belgian women came out firing and earned a penalty corner within the first 25 seconds of the match. The GB defence stood firm, however.
It was from GB’s second penalty corner that Stephanie Vanden Borre was hit on the body on the line. Grace Balsden stepped up to take the resulting penalty stroke, sending the keeper the wrong way and firing the ball into the left corner to take the lead.
The Belgians hit back in the second quarter, Charlotte Engelbert’s powerful strike from the top of the D from open play speeding through GB keeper Sabbie Heesh’s legs for the equaliser.
They were back in scoring action less than three minutes later, Louise Versavel and Emily White combining to beat Heesh once again and take a 2-1 lead into the half-time break.
The Belgians continued to dominate in the third quarter. Vanessa Blockmans pounced on a GB error and fed the ball to Alexia t’Serstevens on the edge of the circle. She worked her way in, then passed to Astrid Bonami who blasted it in for a 3-1 lead.
The GB team clawed one back at the start of the final quarter, Giselle Ansley scoring from a penalty corner to get her side back in the match. But despite a frantic final few minutes, they couldn’t find the equaliser, succumbing 2-3 to the Belgian side who recorded their second victory of the weekend.
Belgian captain Barbara Nelen was named player of the match and said: “I’m really happy. I think we played really well today. Lots of energy and we fought really hard so I’m very happy.
“I don’t think I deserve it [player of the match]… I think all the young players and our team played really well so I’m happy with the team performance.”
To see the current standings in the FIH Hockey Pro League, click here.
FIH Pro League – 28 May 2023
Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, London (UK)
Result: Men’s Match 39
Great Britain 3-1 Belgium
Player of the Game: Jack Waller (GBR)
Umpires: Hong-Zhen Lim (SGP), Sean Rapaport (RSA), Ayanna McClean (TTO-video)
Result: Women’s Match 39
Great Britain 2-3 Belgium
Player of the Game: Barbara Nelen (BEL)
Umpires: Ahmed Elsayed (EGY), Wanri Venter (RSA), Hong-Zhen Lim (SGP-video)