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Olympic hockey champions Germany taken to the wire by Belgium

[img_assist|nid=3602|title=Florian Fuchs|desc=(Right) in action during the test event, against GB’s Ali Wilson, in May – Andy Smith|link=node|align=right|width=220|height=155]LONDON, 30 July – Germany began the defence of their Olympic title with a difficult 2-1 win over Belgium in their opening Pool B match at the Riverbank Arena on Monday.

Aiming for their first Olympic win against Germany, Belgium started the match brightly, controlling possession and pressuring the Germany defence. The bright start worked as a third-minute penalty corner was converted by Jerome Dekeyser. He drilled a low shot past Germany goalkeeper Max Weinhold to give Belgium an ideal start.

Belgium continued to press the Germany circle and almost doubled their lead in the 10th minute as a powerful Cedric Charlier reverse shot was blocked by Weinhold.

A clever Jan Philipp Rabente run along Belgium’s backline allowed Florian Fuchs to level the scores in the 13th minute, placing a low shot past Vincent Vanasch in the Belgium goal.

Christopher Zeller almost gave Germany the lead in the 15th minute with a rising shot from the right of the circle that Vanasch blocked with his body, but Germany were passing among themselves with greater accuracy and were more patient in their build-up.

Tom Boon (BEL) suffered a blow to the head in the 17th minute as the ball was deflected into the Germany circle, and he was taken from the field on a stretcher.

Belgium were pressing Germany’s midfield and forcing them to play from the back. They played long and high passes up the field and Belgium were content to intercept and counter-attack, but a lapse in concentration gave Germany a penalty corner in the 26th minute. Vanasch dived low to his right to save Martin Haener’s flick to leave the score 1-1 at half-time.

Neither team dominated territory at the start of the second half, but Germany took the lead in the 45th minute with a deflected shot from Zeller. Belgium referred the goal to the video umpire who refused their appeal.

Germany continued to press and were awarded a penalty corner in the 53rd minute. Timo Wess beat Vanasch with his flick, but his shot was blocked on the line by Xavier Reckinger. Fuchs also failed to convert the rebound.

In the 55th minute, Vanasch was back in action and made a quick double save which launched a Belgium counter-attack, Thomas Briels driving the ball into the Germany circle only for Weinhold to block his effort.
Charlier and John-John Dohmen both missed chances for Belgium and Zeller and Rabente both went close for Germany in a period of end-to-end attacks with about 15 minutes remaining.

Simon Gougnard earmed a penalty corner for Belgium in the 65th minute, but Alexandre de Saedeleer couldn’t draw Belgium level, dragging his flick just wide of the left post. It was Belgium’s last chance of an equaliser and Germany held on for a 2-1 victory.

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