The World Cup winners Belgium held on to their nerves and survived a valiant display of attacking hockey from New Zealand to pocket home the tie (4-2) after a penalty shoot-out in their FIH Pro League meeting against the hosts at the North Harbour, Auckland. The match had earlier ended 4-4 in the regulation period after the Black Sticks came back from a 2-4 deficit.
Though the first quarter was goalless but it did see the Belgians prowling around the Kiwi goal post with as many as 9 circle entries and 6 shots at the goal. Into the second period, the Kiwis surprised the Belgians with a Hugo Inglis goal from the penalty stroke with a goal in the 17th minute. But as they surged ahead, the Belgians were quick to bounce back and equalized with a tip-in front of the goal mouth from Cedric Charlier. And 2 minutes before the half time the Belgians overtook the Kiwis to make it 2-1 with a Maxim Plennevauxmax goal from an acute angle.
After the Halftime break, the Black Sticks made inroads and eventually with an Aidan Sarikaya movement into the striking circle equalized 2-2 at the 35th minute. But their parity was shortlived and Arthur Van Doren made it 3-2 in a matter of 2 minutes. The quarter then ended with a 3-2 advantage for the visitors.
The final quarter saw hockey at a blistering pace from both ends, it was first Cedric Charlier who doubled his goal count in the 46th minute and then the Black Sticks’ wave of attacks which resulted in back to back Penalty Corners, where Nic Woods converted one of them to keep the New Zealand men in hunt. The next minute saw a clumsy clearance on top of the striking circle from the Belgian defense, which was pounced upon by Stephen Jenness, to bring his team at level terms with a one-to-one against the goalie. With more than seven minutes remaining in regulation time, the Belgians and the Kiwis earned Penalty corner each but couldn’t muster anything out of it.
The match then went on to Penalty Shootout where the Belgians kept their cool and slammed the backboard on all the 4 occasions whereas the Black Sticks could manage only 2. Though the Black Sticks lost, they did take away 1 point from the game whereas the Belgians have managed to pocket their second win.
Earlier in the day, Black Sticks Women too went down 1-0 to the Belgium Women in their FIH Pro League encounter.
About the Author
Suposh Sharma, keenly follows Hockey, Athletics, and other Olympic sports. He also has a penchant for writing humour and is an avid traveller