England go down to Belgian fightback

Hosts England saw a two goal advantage and an opening day win slip from their grasp as they went down 4-2 against Belgium at London Cup in Chiswick. 

After a bright start in the first half, England struggled in the second dropping their pace considerably as their old nemesis Belgium netted three times during that period to emerge victorious.

England 2 (2)
Richard Alexander 9 (F)  
Barry Middleton 25 (F)  
Belgium 4 (1)
John-John Dohmen 30 (F)  
Alexandre De Saedeleer 53,65 (PC,PC)  
Jerome Dekeyser 57 (PC) 

The match started on a positive note for England as the team launched a string of attacks and opened the scoring in the ninth minute through a reverse flick from Surbiton’s Richard Alexander.  England continued to dominate the proceedings but failed to convert the chances that came their way.

Barry Middleton in action for England against Belgium at The London Cup, Chiswick

They won two penalty corners in the first half but could not hit the target.  England’s second goal came in the 25th minute when captain Barry Middleton scored through open play. However, the lead was halved on the half hour when John-John Dohmen hit one back against the run of the play.

After playing scintillating hockey in the first half, the momentum completely swung the Belgian way in the second half as the hosts lost their way after the initial burst.  As England coach Jason Lee later eluded to, Belgium hit the target with virtually every opportunity they created in the second half to mark a memorable fight back.

Ben Hawes in action for England men against Belgium at The London Cup in ChiswickThe equaliser came from Alexander De Saedeleer in the 53rd minute from a penalty corner and Jerome Dekeyser put the visitors in front four minutes later with a strike from open play.  De Saedeleer sealed the win with a second penalty corner five minutes from time.

Belgium coach Colin Batch was pleased with the performance and felt the win was an ideal preparation for the upcoming European Championships.  “It’s the first tournament we’ve played in since the World Cup Qualifier in 2009. Good preparation for European championship.  It’s a case of very much of what we can learn from this tournament as we progress from this tournament and beyond,” he said.

Belgium captain Maxime Luycx credited self-belief for their spirited show.  “The half time message was about self belief.  When you’re 2-0 down it means you start doing something you shouldn’t be doing and you need to have belief in yourself.  At these times you don’t have control – we were 2-0 down but kept going.”

Ben Hawes in action for England men against Belgium at The London Cup in ChiswickEngland coach Jason Lee expressed his disappointment with the performance following the match:  “I thought we played poorly in the first half and should have been 5-0 up but we became nervous and lacked focus. Our goalkeeper only had to make three saves and he didn’t achieve them. We didn’t score any of our corners.  It was embarrassing being beaten in front of a home crowd.”

England captain Barry Middleton echoed his coach’s sentiments and admitted, “We have a bad habit of not performing at home.  That is one of the biggest tasks we are trying to resolve.  Our psychiatrist should be able to help.”
The contest has left England with a must-win match tomorrow (Wednesday) to stay in contention for the finals. The match against Korea gets underway at the University of Westminster Sports Ground at 8:00pm on Wednesday evening.  Tickets are still available to buy on the gate, priced at £5 for under 18s and £10 for adults.

In the day’s earlier game, New Zealand beat Korea 2-0.  Simon Child struck on the stroke of half time to put the Black Sticks ahead and Nick Wilson doubled the Commonwealth Games bronze medallists’ lead midway through the second half.  The result puts New Zealand into second place in the table, behind Belgium on goals scored.  The pair clash in Wednesday’s first game, which gets underway at 5:45pm.

  Pl W D L GF GA GD Pts
Belgium 1 1 0 0 4 2 2 3
New Zealand 1 1 0 0 2 0 2 3
England 1 0 0 1 2 4 -2 0
Korea 1 0 0 1 0 2 -2 0