FIH Pro League: First points for China: Boon Pellet shine; Belgium women outplay Spain; last gasp win for England men; and Las Leonas keep on winning  

In a day packed full of exciting hockey action, 32 goals were scored across six matches. The unstoppable Leonas continued with winning ways – it is now 11 matches unbeaten. Belgium women reversed its previous day’s result with a convincing win against Spain; China snatched a late goal to draw the match against England and then went on to win the shoot-out. In the men’s matches, England beat France in the closest of contests; Germany’s Gonzalo Peillat was on top form against his former team as Germany handed Argentina a lesson in set pieces; and for the second consecutive day, Tom Boon spearheaded the Belgium attack as the Red Lions put on a showcase of team work, slick passing and goalscoring artistry. 

In the first half Germany looked nervous and hesitant in the face of an Argentina team oozing with confidence on the back of 10 straight wins in the FIH Pro League. 

Argentina seemed to sense the disquiet within the German team and there were plenty of fast and flowing Argentina attacks on the German circle but by the half-time break there was only one goal in it. Eugenia Trinchinetti was in her usual goal hungry frame of mind as she drove into the circle and fired home to give her team the lead.

Germany came out for the second half with a totally different mindset and the game became a far more evenly-matched affair. Both teams created chances but it was Germany who found the back of the net next. A sustained period of pressure by Die Danas led to a penalty corner which Victoria Huse duly dispatched.

Argentina’s lead was restored through drag-flick specialist Agustina Gorzelany. Her first two drag-flicked efforts were saved by Ana Kilian in the German goal but the third attempt was unstoppable as it flew into the top corner.  The goal puts Gorzelany at the top of the FIH Pro League scoring table, alongside Yibbi Jansen of the Netherlands.

Player of the Match: Eugenia Trinchinetti (ARG) said: ’I am so happy, firstly because we won and secondly because it was a a very hard game. The team played very well. We will see video of this game and see what we need to do to play better.’

Argentina started the match on the front foot and took an early lead in the second minute through Nicolas Keenan. Germany responded well and hit Argentina with a string of penalty corners. Eventually they were rewarded with a penalty stroke, duly converted by Tom Grambusch.

A minute later a Gonzalo Peillat penalty corner was deflected by Raphael Hartkopf to give Germany the lead. Moritz Trompertz, Peillat (x 2), and Thies Prinz all added to the home side’s score. In response Argentina scored through Juan Catan and Santiago Tarazona but by then Germany were out of sight.

Germany’s strength in this game was their high press which yielded set pieces galore. Despite the score line Tomas Santiago in the Argentina goal had a reasonable game but he needed more support from his defence.

England-France  was a topsy-turvy game which saw England tear into a 2-0 lead, Gaspard Baumgarten score a hat trick and the winning goal being scored in the last 60 minutes of play. For the spectators at the Lee Valley Tennis and Hockey Centre it was a match with everything.

David Goodfield opened the scoring in the second minute when he drove into the circle and let fly with a shot that caught Corentin Saunier in the French goal completely unawares. The lead was doubled six minutes later when Matthew Ramshaw scored the first of a brace in his debut international.

In the second quarter it was all France and they scored twice: firstly through a powerful Victor Charlet penalty corner and then from a rasping shot from Gaspard Baumgarten. 

England started the third quarter as they had started the first with Sam Ward scoring from a penalty corner. France came back and took the lead through two more goals from Baumgarten. In response England Head Coach Zak Jones pulled the goalkeeper Oli Payne from the pitch with five minutes to go. First Ramshaw sent home a penalty corner to make it 4-4 and then, with the keeper still off the pitch, Jones went for broke and was rewarded when David Goodfield’s driving run earned a penalty corner, which Ward converted.

Player of the Match David Goodfield (ENG) said: ‘It was a tough game and a test of our character. We started strong but France asked some questions of us. We talk about wanting to be at our best from the start and then keep it going from there. At half time we talked about being better in our defensive circle.’

England will consider the two points loss as it failed to capitalise in a match where it enjoyed the greater share of possession for three quarters of the game. China set up a strong defensive press in the first quarter which gave England no room to manoeuvre but also meant the visiting side was working incredibly hard without the ball.

England finally got the break through via Tess Howard. The striker was the brightest spark on the pitch in an England shirt as she darted around the China circle trying to find a way past the excellent Liu Ping in goal.

Howard’s goal came when Lily Owsley, revelling in a deeper midfield role, found her teammate with a direct hit straight into the circle. Howard dived and deflected the ball into the goal. 

China started to play attacking hockey in the latter part of the final quarter. A series of penalty corners paid off when, with about two seconds left on the clock, Gu Bingfeng struck the ball past Sabbie Heesh in the England goal.

In the shoot-out, China were clinical and scored all their attempts. The delight among the China players as they registered their first points of the season was evident.

China Head Coach Alyson Annan said: ‘It was important to the team to get some points. We showed progress. The first three quarters were okay but then we started to really play in the fourth quarter. It is now time to put practice into the performance on the pitch.’

Belgium put in a whole team performance to reverse the results of the previous day against Spain. The Red Panthers played with energy and directness, which yielded three goals and kept the Spanish attack at bay. This result would have been extra sweet for Aisling D’Hooghe as the goalkeeper celebrated 200 caps for her country.

Bossing possession and making sure of their opportunities, Belgium opened the scoring in the second quarter when Delphine Marien came back on the pitch after a green card to immediately get on the score-sheet. 

Ambre Ballenghien was convincing when she put a penalty stroke into the bottom corner of Ana Calvo’s goal and then Abi Raye sealed the win in the 56th minute. For Raye, this was just reward for a performance that had been full of energy and running.

For its part, Spain lacked the creativity and energy that had been the hallmark of its game the previous day. It will also rue the five penalty corners that yielded no goals.

Player of the Match, Charlotte Englebert, said: ‘We stepped up defensively and then we were all over Spain. We were definitely 3-0 better than them today. It was mostly about enjoying the games but we made some changes from one game to the next and that was mostly it. This is a new cycle for the World Cup and we enjoyed it. We tried new things and some of us tried new positions and roles. I am now a striker for example.’

The Belgium-Spain men’s match was a totally different proposition to the encounter that had taken place 24 hours earlier. Then Spain had been hugely competitive and Belgium had been on the back foot. 

In this game, it was all about Belgium and its ability to find each other with sublime first-touch hockey. Tom Boon opened the scoring in the seventh minute when he deflected a cross into the goal past Adrian Rafi in the Spanish goal. This goal was followed by a tip in from Nelson Onana, which gave the player his first senior goal.

The goal that summed up the Belgium style of play was Boon’s second. First touch passing all the way up the righthand side of the Belgium attack mean the ball arrived in the circle headed at pace towards Boon. With his back to goal, Boon deflected the ball through his legs into the Spanish goal.

Boon scored his third goal early in the third quarter. William Ghislain fed the striker the ball and then watched as Boon juggled, tapped, bustled and finally knocked the ball over the line, somehow getting past the army of defenders trying to stop him.

In the final quarter, Belgium continued to dictate the pace of the game, although Spain dug deep to keep the scoring chances to a minimum. Ignacio Rodriguez scored a consolation goal as he raced the length of the pitch, saw the first shot saved but then was on hand to strike the ball home. 

Boon finished an almost perfect match with an unselfish pass to Tanguy Cosyns, who slipped the ball home to make it 5-1.

Player of the Match Tom Boon said: ‘I think that we had better energy today. We put everything together today. The younger guys have really made a big step forwards today and they have a big future ahead of them. I think we were in a better place today. We used the pitch well and created a lot of space.’

Result: Men

England 5, France 4
Player of the Match: David Goodfield (England)

Germany 6, Argentina 3
Player of the Match: Gonzalo Peillat (Germany)

Belgium 5, Spain 1 
Player of the Match: Tom Boon (Belgium)


Germany 1 Argentina 2 
Player of the Match: Eugenia Trinchinetti (Argentina)

England 1, China 1 (China win shoot-out 4-3 to collect bonus point)
Player of the Match: Gu Bingfeng (China)

Belgium 3, Spain 0
Player of the Match: Charlotte Englebert (Belgium)