Sunday, December 3, 2023

Hockey Pro League: Belgium open up campaign in style

Belgium’s women and men produced double header victories over Germany as Pro League season 3 opened in Brussels.

Belgium’s Red Panthers claimed their second win in two days over Die Danas, Stephanie Vanden Borre earning her second player of the match award of the weekend thanks to a penalty corner double, finding the bottom left corner with two near identical strikes in the 10th and 21st minutes respectively.

Germany pulled themselves back into the contest thanks to a goal on debut from Stine Kurz, who found the back of the Belgian net with a penalty corner drag-flick five minutes before the end of the third quarter.

“It is not every year you get six points against Germany, so we are very happy”, said Vanden Borre after their 3-1 win. “[Wednesday’s defeat against the Netherlands] was a game that we learned a lot from, and today we proved that we can do it against a really good team so we are happy with our six points.”

Belgium’s men came into Sunday’s match on the back of a 6-1 victory over Germany.

On Sunday, Germany struck early thanks to Niklas Wellen’s superb close range penalty corner deflection before Belgium turned the match on its head with three goals in four minutes either side of the quarter-time break.

Sebastien Dockier scored two wonderful team goals, with Tanguy Cosyns also on target as the reigning Olympic champions showed exactly why they are currently the best men’s team on the planet.

Lucas Windfeder’s penalty corner drag-flick ahead of half-time kept Germany within touching distance, although Thibeau Stockbroekx put the Belgians into a 4-2 lead after fine work from the exceptional Victor Wegnez. Again Die Honamas hit back, with Malte Hellwig netting at the end of the third quarter.

Eventually though, it was the home favourites who prevailed, with Nicolas de Kerpel completing a 5-3 score-line from close range.

“If you look at the game yesterday, it was 6-1 of course, but our goalie had an amazing game and it could have been 6-4 or 6-5,” said Belgium midfielder Victor Wegnez, who created two goals in the second game. “Today I think they were more efficient in front of goal. We struggled a little bit to enter the game, but then we started to put our game in place and deserved the win.”

Outgoing Germany head coach Kais Al Saadi, taking charge of the team for the very last time, said: “It was much better than yesterday. We were much more competitive. The boys tried everything they could to get a good result against the Olympic champions.

“I’m very proud of the team and the two years, what we have accomplished together. It was always good fun, and I’m very disappointed to not see them in the future, but they have a bright one, so [I have] no worries about it.”

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