FIH Pro League – Women
Belgium 1 Great Britain 2
Great Britain finally won on the road in their four match tour of the Netherlands and Belgium, securing a 2-1 victory against the Red Panthers in Brussels on Sunday afternoon.
Ironically, having failed to force a single penalty corner in the first meeting 24 hours earlier, both Great Britain goals came from penalty corner routines, whilst Belgium, having had six awards in game one, were deprived of the opportunity to work on their routine.
Both teams made one change, Belgium replacing Joanne Peeters with Shaunda Ikegwuonu and Great Britain bringing in Emily Dark for Holly Hunt.
In overcast and damp conditions, both teams struggled to settle down and made several unforced errors and misplaced passes in an attempt to take the early initiative. The first real chance came in the 12th minute when Lily Owsley ran into the circle and Tess Howard’s shot was saved, but a minute later, Great Britain forced their first penalty corner and Owsley neatly deflected Anna Toman’s shot into the netting.
Belgium missed the opportunity to level just before the end of the first quarter when Judith Vandermeiren ran towards the Great Britain backline only for her cross from the right to go speeding through the circle. However they levelled 23 seconds into the second quarter when Alexia ‘t’ Serstevens passed to Ikegwouonu to attack down the right wing, pass infield for Alix Gerniers to run into the circle and find captain, Barbara Nelen to slap the ball inside the left side netting.
Great Britain immediately responded by forcing a second penalty corner, but Grace Balsdon’s shot was blocked and set up a Belgian counter attack eventually broken up by Sophie Hamilton.
Nelen also pounced on an errant pass in the 20th minute and was able to run from just outside her own 23 into the Great Britain 23 before laying the ball off for Gerniers to send a reverse stick shot over the bar.
Belgium lost their video referral challenging a backstick decision when Ellie Rayer won a penalty corner but Toman’s shot rebound set up a Belgian counter attack.
Rayer and Vandermeiren both saw green before half time when the teams went in level at 1-1.
The sun made a very brief appearance at the start of the third quarter and Belgium also started brightly with Gerniers setting up a shot for Michelle Struijk which was comfortably saved by Sabbie Heesh before Gerniers herself missed the ball when aiming for goal.
Great Britain created chances from open play but the ball evaded Susannah Townsend in the third quarter before Belgium conceded two penalty corners in added on time at the end of the third quarter.
The first saw Great Britain take too much time to make a decisive move before Toman forced the second award. The second was far more clinical, Balsdon slipping the ball behind her to Toman for a second time before Toman’s shot was deflected at the left post by Sarah Robertson to celebrate her 50th Great Britain cap.
Great Britain tried to snatch an insurance goal, but Townsend was denied by Potgiu; unmarked at the left post, failed to put away Robertson’s cross; Emma Puvrez made a goal-line clearance and Sarah Jones fired past the left post.
With less than two minutes remaining, Owsley tried to keep the ball in the Belgian corner, but the tactic nearly backfired as Belgium counter attacked, Fiona Crackles was yellow carded for a cynical foul and the subsequent attack saw Nelen’s cross from the left just touched by ‘T’ Serstevens before speeding across goal.
The win lifted Great Britain up to fourth, but with four of the five teams below them having games in hand, their position is likely to change. Belgium are due to host the Netherlands on Wednesday (4 November) but the fixture may be postponed after Belgium goes into national lockdown on Monday.
Scorer: Barbara Nelen 16-F
Starters: Abi Raye, Judith Vandermeiren, Emma Puvrez, Louise Versavel, Alix Gerniers, Tiphaine Duquesne, Michelle Struijk, Barbara Nelen (Capt.), Stephanie Vanden Borre, Elena Sotgiu (GK), Lucie Breyne.
Subs: Pauline Leclef (3 mins), Alexia ‘T’ Serstevens (4), Anne-Sophie Weyns (4), Shaunda Ikegwuonu (6), Vanessa Blockmans (6), Lien Hillewaert (48).
Sub not used: Pauline De Ryck (GK):
Cards: Green: Judith Vandermeiren (29 mins), Tiphaine Duquesne (51 mins).
Scorers: Lily Owsley 14-PC, Sarah Robertson 45+-PC
Starters: Laura Unsworth (Capt.), Anna Toman, Susannah Townsend, Sarah Robertson, Ellie Rayer, Tess Howard, Sabbie Heesh (GK), Lily Owsley, Grace Balsdon, Amy Costello, Fiona Crackles.
Subs: Jo Hunter (4 mins), Lizzie Neal (4), Sophie Hamilton (4), Sarah Jones (5), Izzy Petter (5),
Subs not used: Emily Dark, Miriam Pritchard (GK).
Cards: Green: Ellie Rayer (24 mins). Yellow: Fiona Crackles (60 mins).
Umpires: Céline Martin-Schmets (BEL) and Coen van Bunge (NED