Brave Great Britain have to settle for Belgium draw

Barry Middleton celebrates his equaliser agasint Belgium

Great Britain 3 (1)
Barry Middleton 25, 59 (PC, FG)
David Ames 57 (FG)

Belgium 3 (2)
Thomas Briels 1 (FG)
Loick Luypaert 29, 42 (PC, PC)

Two goals from Barry Middleton and a first Great Britain goal for David Ames snatched a dramatic draw for Great Britain in their Hero Hockey World League match with Belgium. Having trailed 3-1 to goals from Thomas Briels and a double from Loick Luypaert a grandstand finale from the hosts rescued a point. With Australia defeating India earlier in the day, Bobby Crutchley’s side needed a win over Belgium to make the final. Despite their late heroics, the draw means they will now play for bronze against Germany.  

The match started in disastrous fashion for Great Britain, as Belgium took the lead from their first attack. Briels got in ahead of his marker to deflect the ball past George Pinner to make it 1-0. Belgium enjoyed the lion’s share of the pressure in the early going and had it not been for a smart stop from Pinner, Arthur van Doren could have made it 2-0. Great Britain’s best chance of the first quarter fell to Mark Gleghorne but his backhand strike hit the side netting.

Great Britain started the second quarter strongly. Nick Catlin did well to find himself some space inside the circle but his shot flew over the bar. With ten minutes gone in the second quarter the breakthrough came for the home side. From a well-worked penalty corner Gleghorne picked out Middleton who did the rest to level it up.  The joy was short lived; however as on the stroke of half time, Luypaert notched his first of the game with a precise penalty corner to send Belgium in 2-1 up at the break.

Bobby Crutchley’s side started the third quarter on the front foot. Iain Lewers picked out David Condon with a sumptuous long pass but the No22’s shot hit the outside of the post and went wide. With that chance still fresh in the minds Belgium stretched their lead thanks once again to Luypaert’s expertise from set pieces. Great Britain rallied and almost pulled one back. A flowing move in the dying embers of the third quarter set up Jackson but Vincent Vanasch was down well to make a fine save.   

The final quarter started with Great Britain knowing they had to throw everything at their opponents if the place in the final was to be theirs. A great run by Alastair Brogdon created space and the Wimbledon man found Sam Ward. Ward teed up Jackson but Vanasch performed heroics once again to make the save. Both Condon and Dan Fox further tested the goalkeeper’s reactions but Vanasch continued to defy the hosts with a string of good stops. With six minutes remaining Crutchley withdrew goalkeeper Pinner to go to 11 outfield players as a last throw of the dice.

With three minutes left the gamble paid off. Ames rifled an unstoppable shot past Vanasch to set up a dramatic final few minutes. With 58 minutes on the clock, Belgium’s Emmanuel Stockbroekx was given a red card
, but that was not the end of the drama.
With a minute to go, the comeback was complete. Ward picked the ball up inside the circle and picked out Middleton to score his second, GB’s third. Amazingly there was still time to win the match and Catlin’s pile driver once again brought the best out of Vanasch, the goalkeeper’s reflexes saving his side’s share of the spoils and breaking the home fans’ hearts.

With Great Britain unable to find a winner they will face Germany in the bronze medal match. Australia and India will play for gold and Korea and Belgium contest the 5th-6th place match.   

Defender Michael Hoare said afterwards:

“We’re really frustrated. You could say we’re pleased to come back from 3-1 down with four minutes left, we even had a chance to win it at the end, but in big games like this you can’t afford to concede goals. If you score three goals in a game you should win it. That’s the disappointing thing for me
; we gave them poor goals at the start and end of the first half and that wasn’t good enough.

I’m sure we’ll take positives fr
om it but this is a missed opportunity and I don’t see it any other way. We’re all disappointed and I don’t think getting a draw makes up for that.

We’ll come back and be ready to try and get the bronze medal. We’ll take what was good and we’ll work on the things we need to improve. They’re a strong side but we know we can beat anyone on our day and we’ll be determined to do that.”

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