Saturday, May 18, 2024

Pro League hockey: GB men stumble at the final hurdle, Belgium finish mini-tournament on a high

The Great Britain men’s hockey team was dealt another blow in its final match of their FIH Hockey Pro League campaign, beaten 3-2 by Spain on home soil in London.

The back-to-back losses meant they finished on 32 points and top of the table for now, but with Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands hot on their heels with several matches still in hand.

India have completed their league engagements with 30 points from 16 matches and are second in the standings.

Belgium, who defeated New Zealand 1-0 in a match played at Antwerp, are third with 24 points from 12 matches, Spain are fourth with 21 points from 12 matches while the Netherlands have 19 points from 10 matches.

In the match played on Wednesday, Great Britain created much of the early pressure. But against the run of play, a phenomenal strike from Marc Reyne after receiving a pass from just inside the half gave the Spanish the lead.

The home side found the equaliser when a rebound off a penalty corner bobbled out for Nick Bandurak to fire it in for his 12th Pro League goal this season.

GB’s second goal came when James Oates worked the ball in for Phil Roper who got the better of the Spanish defence on the stroke of half-time to take his team into the break 2-1 up. But Spain came back at them when Ollie Payne failed to deal with a fairly regulation strike from Borja Lacalle.

The Spanish then scored what turned out to be the winner less than 10 minutes later when Pau Cunill’s shot hit a GB defender’s foot on the way into the circle.

The umpire played advantage but the defence had already let their guard down in anticipation of the penalty corner being awarded and Alvaro Iglesias took advantage, handed plenty of time and space to fire his team in front.

In Antwerp, Mew Zealand started well but couldn’t prevent the Belgians from scoring the opening goal from a penalty corner, Tanguy Cosyns delivering a powerful drag into the top left corner.

The Olympic champions looked a little flat for the remainder of the half and couldn’t add to their tally against a determined Black Sticks side looking to avoid relegation.

A hard-fought second half brought no further change to the score despite numerous opportunities for the Belgians, but they managed to hold on and claim the 1-0 win and with that, the all-important three points.

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