Belgium men extended their advantage at the top of the FIH Pro League standings with a scintillating attacking display to earn a 4-2 victory over Great Britain,
adding to the 4-0 win they secured over GB in London just under two weeks ago. The damage was done in the first two quarters, with Cedric Charlier (2), Tom Boon and Alexander Hendrickx giving the world champions a 4-0 half time lead before Phil Roper and Luke Taylor netted in the third and fourth quarters respectively. The win means that the Red Lions have improved their points percentage to 85.71, while Great Britain have now fallen outside of the top four, dropping to fifth with 48.15 percent
Belgium’s men (FIH World Ranking: 1) were at their brilliant best in the first two quarters against GB (WR:7), with the Red Lions looking capable of scoring almost every time they went forward. Cedric Charlier opened the scoring in the ninth minute, bundling home after Tom Boon’s penalty corner effort was only half-cleared by GB goalkeeper George Pinner. The strike partnership between Charlier and Boon was in devastating form, with the former soon setting up the latter for an easy tap-in to double the lead just moments after Boon had hit the post with a remarkable improvised effort whilst lying on the ground.
The two players combined again early in the second period, with Boon’s perfect pass being guided home by Charlier before Alexander Hendrickx made it 4-0 when he unleashed a powerful drag-flick into the British goal despite the best efforts of defender David Ames, who could only deflect the ball into the roof of the net.
Great Britain had enjoyed plenty of first half possession but rarely tested Belgium shot-stopper Vincent Vanasch. However, Danny Kerry’s team gave themselves a glimmer of hope midway through the third quarter when the quick-thinking Zach Wallace picked out Phil Roper who made no mistake from close range for his seventh goal of this season’s FIH Pro League, leaving him just one behind competition top scorer Pau Quemada of Spain.
The visitors made things even more interesting when Luke Taylor’s penalty corner drag-flick sailed into the Belgian goal just two minutes into the final quarter. However, despite coach Kerry replacing his goalkeeper with an outfield player in a bid to force the agenda, it was the Belgians who held on for their fifth win in seven matches.
“I think we had maybe a bit less energy in our press [in the second half] and they were able to find the gaps in our zones which gave them more opportunities and meant we had less counter-attacks, which is one of our strengths”, said Cedric Charlier, who was named Player of the Match. “But the first half was really good and that is what we have to take forward into the next games.”
Great Britain’s Phil Roper said: “In the second half we really tried to put our game out there and we managed to succeed. To take the positives out of the game, we won the second half 2-0 but we cannot make the silly mistakes we made in the first half.”