It was a day of players scoring their first senior international goals as FIH Pro League action continued in London. A 4-2 win for Great Britain over India’s men in an entertaining encounter took the hosts to the top of the Pro League table. In the women’s match of the day, Belgium enjoyed a return to international competition for the first time in six months with a 3-1 victory over China.
(Men’s) Great Britain vs India 4-2
It was GB who exerted the early pressure, creating plenty of scoring opportunities. Some individual excellence from Tim Nurse got the home side on the scoreboard – the 22-year-old working his way into the circle and then lifting it into the net for his first senior international goal.
India earned the first penalty corner of the match and, as he has done so often in the Pro League, captain Harmanpreet Singh took care of business, a powerful drag flick producing the equaliser just before the end of the first quarter.
An action-packed second period included a disallowed goal for India and a penalty stroke for GB which was saved by goalkeeper PR Sreejesh to ensure the teams went into the halftime break all square on 1-1.
GB were awarded their first penalty corner at the start of the second half. Nicholas Bandurak’s initial shot was saved, but the ball popped out to Tom Sorsby on the penalty spot who bunted it in for his first senior international goal and the 2-1 lead.
Some individual brilliance from Lee Morton produced GB’s third goal of the match soon after. The Scotsman worked his way into the circle and fired it in from an acute angle.
Harmanpreet was on target again for India at the end of the third quarter with another powerful drag off a penalty corner. That took him to the top of the all-time Pro League scorers list with 35 goals.
With just over six minutes to go in the match, GB were back on the attack. James Oates’ shot from open play was saved, but goalkeeper Sreejesh gloved it straight to Bandurak who spectacularly swatted it in for the 4-2 victory.
Lee Morton was named player of the match and said: “They were a really tough opponent. I think the weather being a bit hot made it that little bit tougher, but we put in such a good shift and we’re really happy to get the three points… It’s such a good feeling. It’s my home debut so to get a goal is just special.”
(Women’s) Belgium vs China 3-1
The Belgians opened the scoring off their second penalty corner of the match. Vanessa Blockmans’ shot was not particularly powerful but still managed to beat Chinese goalkeeper Jiao Ye, travelling through her legs and into the goal to hand the Belgians the lead. That was a first senior international goal for the 20-year-old.
There was another first senior goal in Belgian colours, this time for Emily White. Blockmans’ shot from a penalty corner was saved but White picked up the ball on the edge of the D and fired it in, catching the edge of the keeper’s stick on its way.
White was taken down in the circle a few minutes later resulting in a penalty stroke for Belgium, but Stephanie Vanden Borre’s shot went wide of goal.
Hong Li then came close to finding China’s opener at the end of the half. But after beating the Belgian defence, her shot hit the post and the score remained 2-0 at halftime.
Michelle Struijk’s heavy tackle on Ying Zhang saw China awarded a penalty stroke with just under four minutes left in the third quarter. Bingfeng Gu made no mistake in finding the back of the net to close the gap to 2-1.
The Belgians restored their two-goal lead at the start of the final period, however. Camille Belis’s pass found Louise Versavel in front of goal and she slotted it in to seal the 3-1 victory.
Vanessa Blockmans was named player of the match and said: “It’s always nice to come back to the Pro League because it was a long time since our last games in Argentina and a win is always nice, of course… I think we just need to keep focussing on our game and if we focus on our game it’s going to be good.”
To see the current standings in the FIH Hockey Pro League, click here.
FIH Pro League – 27 May 2023
Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, London (UK)
Result: Men’s Match 38
Great Britain 4-2 India
Player of the Game: Lee Morton (GBR)
Umpires: Ayanna McClean (TTO), Sean Rapaport (RSA), Wanri Venter (RSA-video)
Result: Women’s Match 38
Belgium 3-1 China
Player of the Game: Vanessa Blockmans (BEL)
Umpires: Hong-Zhen Lim (SGP), Wanri Venter (RSA), Ahmed Elsayed (EGY-video)