Lausanne, Switzerland: There was no winning start for new India men’s coach Craig Fulton as FIH Pro League action resumed in London. His top-of the-table side went down 2-1 to Belgium, with the Olympic champions sneaking in the winning goal right at the death. In the women’s fixture on the opening day of the mini-tournament, it was hosts Great Britain who claimed an “ugly win”, emerging as 1-0 winners against China.
(Men’s) Belgium vs India 2-1
India created the best chance of a goalless opening quarter with Hardik Singh’s drag flick from the top of the circle excellently saved by a diving Loic van Doren.
The new-look Belgian side were more settled in the second quarter and made the breakthrough off an early penalty corner. Loϊck Luypaert’s initial shot was saved but the ball was recycled out to him on the edge of the circle. His shot back in found the perfectly placed Thibeau Stockbroekx who deflected in for a 1-0 lead.
India earned their first penalty corner six minutes before the half-time break, with captain Harmanpreet Singh’s initial strike hitting Arthur de Sloover’s body on the line. The umpire held off on awarding a penalty stroke as some quick goal-mouth reflexes from Mandeep Singh ensured the equaliser found the back of the net.
With the scores locked at 1-1, it was Belgium who snuck in the winner with less than two minutes remaining. A successful video referral saw them awarded another penalty corner, and this time it was Nelson Onana who was in the right place at the right time, slotting in the deflection from the right post for the last-gasp victory.
Belgium’s Loϊck Luypaert was named the player of the match and said: “It was a really nice game, we played with a new side – a couple of young guys who played really well in the league in Belgium who trained for the first time with us yesterday, and I think they did really well. They brought the energy and really showed that Belgian hockey has a future after the golden generation.
(Women’s) Great Britain vs China 1-0
China enjoyed the upper hand in the opening quarter, creating numerous shots on goal, but GB goalkeeper Sabbie Heesh was up to the task.
The Chinese continued that momentum in the second period, but Gu Bingfeng’s shot off a penalty corner hit the post. Li Hong created yet another great chance in the dying seconds of the half, but Heesh again kept it out to remain goalless at the break.
It was Great Britain who finally broke the deadlock against the run of play in the third quarter – Sarah Robertson, Elena Rayer and Hannah Martin combining to score the goal.
Zhang Ying had a chance to equalise soon after but, despite having plenty of time, her shot from the top of the D went wide. She missed out again in the dying minutes of the game with the home side hanging on for the 1-0 win, thanks to China failing to convert their host of scoring chances.
Fiona Crackles was named player of the match and said: “[We’re] buzzing to get that win. They’re a very different team to Australia and New Zealand who we’ve just played, so tactically it’s a very different challenge for us, but our plan today was to win well or win ugly. It probably wasn’t the prettiest game out there but we’re happy to win ugly as well.”
To see the current standings in the FIH Hockey Pro League, click here.
FIH Hockey Pro League – 26 May 2023
Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, London (Great Britain)
Result: Men’s Match 37
Belgium 2-1 India
Player of the Game: Loic Luypaert (BEL)
Umpires: Hong-Zhen Lim (SIN), Ahmed Elsayed (EGY), Ayanna McCLEAN (TTO-video)
Result: Women’s Match 37
Great Britain 1-0 China
Player of the Game: Fiona Crackles (GBR)
Umpires: Ayanna McClean (TTO), Wanri Venter (RSA), Sean Rapaport (RSA-video)