Georgina Oliva was the beating heart of a Spanish midfield that played creative and high tempo hockey that eventually deflated the hard-working Belgium. In the men’s match Spain looked set on its way to a famous victory until Tom Boon showed why he is one of the most feared strikers in the world.
Belgium women began the match brightly. For the first quarter it was the home side that dominated play. Direct and structured attacking moves brought reward early in the game as Ambre Ballenghien was able to send home a penalty corner after a series of Belgium incursions into the Spanish circle. Red Sticks goalkeeper Ana Calvo will not enjoy the video playback of this goal as it should really have been an easy save for a ‘keeper of her quality.
In the second quarter Spain came strongly back into the game, largely through the excellent passing and creative moves of Georgina Oliva. Lucia Jimenez came closer to scoring. Her flick was palmed away by Belgium goalkeeper Elena Sotgui.
The third quarter saw Spain beginning to pile on the pressure and Belgium seemed to lose some of its energy and structure. The Spanish onslaught saw Begona Garcia, Marta Segu and Lucia Jimenez terrorise the Belgium defence but without a goal to show for their efforts. The breakthrough eventually came from a goalmouth scramble as a series of shots finally led to a rebound falling to Laura Barrios, who tapped the ball home.
Spain finally made possession and opportunities count when the most galvanising player on the pitch, Georgina Oliva, picked up the ball on the edge of the circle, dinked it over the defender’s stick and fired it home with precision.
Led by the excellent Barbara Nelen, Belgium worked hard to get back on even terms but Spain defended in numbers to keep the lead.
Speaking after the game, Player of the Match Georgina Oliva said: ‘I am really happy because we finally won. All the hard work has paid off and we got the result. We didn’t start well but we got momentum and flow later in the game but tomorrow we must do that for the complete game.’
In the men’s game, the Olympic champions started to play the most sumptuous passing game with one flowing move after another. Facing them was a Spanish team that has played four times in the past six days and came to Antwerp having won its past two matches.
In the opening quarter Belgium should have taken the lead when Tom Boon was gifted a beautiful cross in front of the Spanish goal but, for once, his timing was just off. That let-off galvanised Spain, particularly Joaquin Menini, to greater levels of effort. It was rewarded with a fantastically taken goal from Marc Reyne in the early minutes of the second quarter. The ball was played across the Belgium circle with perfect pace by the former Argentina international, and Reyne with his stick perfectly placed to guide the ball home.
The remainder of the second quarter saw Spain in the ascendancy. While both teams had opportunities to put the goalkeepers under pressure, it was Spain who looked more dangerous and had greater possession. Spain had three penalty corners with shots from Marc Miralles and Alejandro Alonso. These were well saved by the double barrier of Vincent Vanasch in the first instance and then John-John Dohmen, who calmly cleared the ball from the line if it passed his ‘keeper.
Three goals in the third quarter continued to reflect the pattern of play. Spain extended its lead when Marc Miralles sent home a fabulous penalty corner to double the Red Stick’s lead. A lapse in concentration by the Spanish defence allowed Belgium to gain possession and drive the ball into the circle. Veteran midfielder John-John Dohmen was on hand to fire the ball home to make the score 2-1.
Spain’s two-goal cushion was restored when Alvaro Iglesias managed to turn a mis-hit penalty corner into a goal. A poor injection, a mis-trap at the top of the circle and a shot that was flying wide were all turned to a moment of glory when Iglesias deflected the ball into the goal.
As the team’s came out for the final quarter, the Olympic Champions knew they needed some special performances. Tom Boon answered the call. The striker used clever movement in the circle to create space and then smashed the ball home to bring the scores to 3-2.
With just four minutes left, Boon was at it again. The striker ran into the circle, turned the defender and then fired the ball into the goal to bring the scores level.
In the ensuing shoot-out, Vincent Vanasch was his impeccable best in goal and the Belgium strikers matched him for efficiency as Belgium won the shoot-out 3-2 and took the bonus point.
The result means Belgium move to sixth in the FIH pro League just ahead of Spain who are in seventh place.
Player of the Match Tom Boon (BEL) said: ‘We started the first quarter well but then Spain took over. Some of our guys played their first game for the team today and that was a tough game. We showed a lot of character to come back.’
Belgium 3 Spain 3 (Belgium win bonus point shoot-out 3-2)
Player of the Match: Tom Boon (Belgium)
Belgium 1 Spain 2
Player of the Match: Georgina Oliva (Spain)