Belfius EuroHockey Championship
Men’s Pool A: England 0 Belgium 2 (T Boon, A Hendrickx)
Belgium survived a high-class international contest as they made it two wins from two, making it through to the semi-final with a game to spare, impressing their own King Philippe who was among the sold out crowd at Wilrijkse Plein.
Penalty corner goals from Tom Boon and Alexander Hendrickx proved the difference but the Red Lions were also indebted to Vincent Vanasch who had an excellent game to keep his second clean sheet of the competition so far.
Belgium took the lead in over-time in the first quarter when Boon brilliantly picked up a rebound off Harry Gibson with immense reactions and then slung the ball into the net.
Thomas Briels was then left to rue a major chance for a second when he robbed Brendan Creed inside the English circle but he could not keep his shot on target.
England, meanwhile, were enjoying plenty of the contest, forcing Vanasch to make a wealth of good stops, notably keeping Sam Ward out twice while he got down brilliantly with his stick low to the right to deny Ashley Jackson.
Into the second half, it was the crossbar that kept England out as Jackson’s low drag-flick was lifted up and over Vanasch by Harry Martin but the frame of the goal intervened.
And so the narrow gap remained in place until 11 minutes from full time when Belgium earned a corner and Hendrickx applied all of his power to plant the ball by Gibson’s left foot and into the backboard.
That killed off the contest and the hosts held on for the win.
Speaking afterwards, Arthur van Doren said it was not the perfect game but they got the crucial thing on the board: “The three points is what we needed. There are a lot of things we can and will have to do better”.
The defender was deployed at times in a more attacking role at times but he says this was not a specific tactic on the day.
“It’s a field based decision. Everybody tries to do his role to the best of their abilities so sometimes it’s me [stepping forward], sometimes it is someone else. We tried to do as much free-flowing hockey as we can. Today probably wasn’t our best game but, in the end, we got what we needed.
“We need a bit more composure and quality on the ball which is what we lacked and had against Spain. It’s still a tournament and we have to improve each game. The crowd was awesome today and we look forward to impressing them again!”
Umpires: C van Bunge (NED), M Gholami-Eilmer (AUT)
England – Belgium
15’ Tom Boon (PC) 0-1
49’ Alexander Hendrickx (PC) 0-2