HOCKEY: Ireland are overpowered by world No 2 Belgium

by Aaron Dunne
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Ireland 2

Belgium 4

Without creating any clear cut opportunities Belgium dominated the opening exchanges of today’s second match for Ireland Men in their Olympic Qualifiers in Valencia.

A well organised Irish defence coped admirably with whatever they were faced with.

But Belgium, ranked number two in the world, had the ball in the net in the thirteenth minute when Thibeau Stockbroekx cross seemed to be deflected past David Harte by another Belgian player. The Irish asked for the video umpire to take a look thinking some kind of infringement may have occurred. The video umpire saw no reason to change the on-field decision and the goal stood. So, it was 1-0 to Belgium at the end of the first quarter.

The goal seemed to have been a straight shot by Stockbroekx but Felix Denayer ended up being credited with the goal. In the second quarter Harte saved from point blank from Tanguy Cosyns and then Tim Cross went up the other end and was very unlucky not to get an equaliser for Ireland who were in white on the night.

Alexander Hendrickx converted a penalty corner to increase Belgium’s lead 2-0 in the 25th minute. Nelson Onana was green carded a minute later. Ben Johnson got one back from open play to make the score 2-1 in the 26th minute.

But any hopes of a comeback took a major blow in the final minute of the first half when William Ghislain scored from open play to send Belgium leading 3-1 at the break.  

Belgium increased their lead in the 32nd minute through Thibeau Stockbroekx who scored from open play. 4-1 Belgium and it seemed a bridge too far. Ireland did get back one goal late on and it was a terrific piece of team play which was finished off by Matthew Nelson in the 53rd minute.

Speaking after the match head coach Mark Tumilty said:

“We probably weathered a storm in the first quarter and then shipped two good goals. We got a goal back and had a chance to make it 2-2 but it was the sort of chance we normally take but didn’t on this occasion.”

“They got two quick goals either side of half time and we were chasing the game for the remainder of it. It was pleasing we scored an excellent team goal late on.”

“We have a final pool game with Japan and there’s no point in sitting back and getting a draw we need to be proactive and play attacking hockey looking for the win we need to secure that semi-final spot. Ukraine showed earlier on by attacking Japan from the start and went into a 2-0 lead against them so they can be vulnerable early on which gives us a good opportunity”.

Ben Johnson celebrates his goal against Belgium in Valencia

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