Mantell magic secures draw with Belgium

Simon Mantell struck twice to salvage a draw with Belgium. Credit Ian MacNicol1

Belgium 2 (2)
Eliot Van Strydonck 15 (FG)
Sebastien Dockier 22 (FG)

Great Britain 2 (0)
Simon Mantell 50, 60 (FG, FG)

Two goals from Simon Mantell rescued a point in dramatic fashion in Great Britain’s match with Belgium at the Ergo Masters Four Nations Invitational. Mantell struck twice in the final ten minutes, including a goal with virtually the last touch of the match to complete a remarkable comeback from 2-0 down for Bobby Crutchley’s side. Strikes from Eliot Van Strydonck and Sebastien Dockier had looked set to condemn Crutchley’s team to a defeat but Mantell’s late intervention turned the tide and secured a point.

Great Britain settled the quicker of the two sides and dictated the early going with some good spells of possession and some early pressure. Ashley Jackson was at the heart of all the good things Great Britain did and was controlling the midfield. Bobby Crutchley’s side won the first penalty corner of the match on six minutes. Jackson took the shot but it flew over the bar. It took Belgium a while to come into the contest but in the 12th minute they forced a penalty corner. Loick Luypaert stepped up but James Bailey got down well to make the save. The Red Lions had another set piece chance almost immediately but Bailey was across well to glove away the shot, again from Luypaert. Thoughts were turning to the first break of the match but Belgium got their noses in front right on the stroke of quarter time. A long pass into the circle found Van Strydonck at the far post and he made no mistake from close range to make it 1-0.   

Belgium came out for the second quarter full of energy after taking the lead. A series of penalty corners threatened Bailey’s goal but the Great Britain goalkeeper made good saves to deny Tom Boon and Tanguy Cosyns whilst Dan Fox charged another effort down near the top of the circle. Great Britain hit back and Jackson brought the best out of Vincent Vanasch in the Red Lions’ goal, forcing a fine stop from the Belgian goalkeeper.
Despite a good spell of pressure from Great Britain, on 22 minutes, the lead was doubled. A pass into the circle fell kindly to Sebastien Dockier and he was able to fire home to give Great Britain a mountain to climb. Crutchley’s team almost pulled one back but Alastair Brogdon’s deflection thudded against the post with the goalkeeper beaten and it remained 2-0 at the interval.

Belgium sat back in the third quarter, seemingly content to protect what they had. The massed ranks of Red Lions’ defenders made it very difficult for Great Britain to break through and chances continued to be scarce. A good run and cross by Brogdon almost set up a sliding Phil Roper but Vanasch snaked out a glove to get a vital touch to steer the ball away from the Wimbledon man to safety. Great Britain trailed by two heading into the final 15 minutes.

Five minutes into the final quarter Great Britain gave themselves a glimmer of hope. Mark Gleghorne found Jackson outside the circle and his immediate pass found Mantell to apply the finish and make it 2-1. Boon broke into the GB circle with three minutes left and looked set to settle the match for Belgium but Henry Weir came from nowhere to pull off a brilliant block to keep Great Britain in the hunt. Crutchley’s side went to a kicking back for the final two minutes in an attempt to rescue the game and with seconds remaining it paid dividends. Jackson once again played the killer pass and Mantell’s touch diverted the ball beyond Vanasch and snatched a point for Great Britain.

The match between Netherlands and Germany is taking place now and will determine where Great Britain finish in the standings. 

Head Coach Bobby Crutchley:

“I’m disappointed with how we played because we didn’t execute our plans and that’s a little frustrating. At times we overplayed in an effort to get back into the match and that upset our balance. It’s not quite the display I wanted and we didn’t have the control I was looking for but I’m really happy with the character we showed to get something from the game.”

“When we play the way we’re capable of and we do what we set out to do, we create chances. It’s nice for Simon Mantell to get a couple of goals, too. I’d probably say we’ve produced two and half good performances out here. We played some good hockey at times and we did plenty of good things. The main negative is the injury Chris Grassick suffered.”

“We came here knowing it’s an excellent tournament and it’s against three of the best teams in the world so in that respect it’s been a superb competition for us. We’ve been reminded of what we need to work on and we’re in pretty good shape for the challenges ahead. Rio is a long and very difficult tournament. We need to be in control on and off the pitch and we need to be at our best throughout. This weekend has been a good learning experience for us and we’re confident heading towards the Olympics.”