Sunday, August 7, 2022

London Olympics Hockey: Belgium hold Beijing silver medallists to a draw

[img_assist|nid=4665|title=Action in the China goalmouth|desc=|link=node|align=right|width=220|height=146]LONDON, July 31 – World No.16 Belgium earned their first point in Olympic competition with a 0-0 draw against Beijing 2008 silver medallists China in the second round of women’s hockey pool matches at the Riverbank Arena on Tuesday. 

The lowest-ranked team in the competition started positively, looking to attack as often as possible, and their first chance came in the fifth minute. Anouk Raes  played a ball across China’s circle but could not find another Belgian stick. 

China earned the match’s first penalty corner in the eighth minute. Ma Yibo’s shot was blocked by goalkeeper Aisling D’Hooghe, leading to a quick counter-attack that gave Belgium their own penalty corner opportunity.
Stephanie de Groof’s slapped strike beat goalkeeper Zhang Yimeng, but China referred the goal to the video umpire who said the ball was hit too high and ruled out the score.  

Liang Meiyu was leading China’s attacks down the right, her cross just evading GAO Lihua in the 16th minute before her run earned China’s second penalty corner a few minutes later. Wang Mengyu’s initial shot was blocked by defensive runner Erica Coppey and Wang hit her following shot over the crossbar. 

China had another penalty corner chance just before half-time when the umpire upgraded a free hit against Belgium for not retreating. Ma could not control the push-out properly and her rushed shot went wide to the right of the Belgium goal.

China had more penalty corners in the second half, but a combination of Belgium’s willing runners, Coppey and Gaelle Valcke among them, and goalkeeper D’Hooghe kept their opponents scoreless.
As part of Belgium’s defensive effort, Valcke was struck by a lifted Zhao Yudiao cross from the right and D’Hooghe had to make more important saves to keep China without a goal.

De Groof had Belgium’s best chances. Her 40th-minute penalty corner was blocked by Zhang, and the China goalkeeper got in the way of another of her slapped penalty-corner shots in the final minutes, the ball hitting her top leg pad and dribbling just wide.

The score remained 0-0 and, after an opening defeat to the Netherlands, Olympic debutants Belgium had something to celebrate.


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