Unbeaten Great Britain top Pool A after Belgium draw

Alan Forsyth celebrates with team mates 480 x 290

Great Britain 3 (2)
Phil Roper 7 (FG)
Alastair Brogdon 28 (FG)
Alan Forsyth 40 (FG)

Belgium 3 (1)
Thomas Briels 13 (FG)
Tanguy Cosyns 38 (FG)
Tom Boon 42 (PS)

Great Britain remained unbeaten at the World League Finals with a hard-earned 3-3 draw against Belgium in their final Pool A match. Bobby Crutchley’s side led three times with goals from Phil Roper, Alastair Brogdon and Alan Forsyth but they were pegged back by a stubborn and attack-minded Belgium. The Red Lions struck through Thomas Briels, Tanguy Cosyns and Tom Boon but despite both sides throwing everything at each other, they could not be separated and left with a point apiece, securing top spot in the pool for Great Britain.

Nick Catlin, winning his 50th Great Britain cap had his side’s first sight of goal within the first two minutes. He linked up well with Alastair Brogdon but the Holcombe man could not keep his shot down. It took just seven minutes for the deadlock to be broken. Catlin played the ball into the circle where Chris Grassick helped it on for Roper to ghost in and apply the finish for his tenth international goal. It was all square in the 13th minute, however. Florent Van Aubel broke free down the right and his cross was fired in off the crossbar from close range by Briels giving James Bailey no chance and ensuring it was level at quarter time.

In the early moments of the second quarter Belgium’s slick interpassing threatened to cause Great Britain problems. Bailey did well to dash from his line to launch the ball into the stands as Van Aubel’s pass almost freed Boon. Belgium came close to going in front when Felix Denayer’s pass in was deflected by John-John Dohmen only for the captain to see his effort rattle the upright. With two minutes to go in the half Bobby Crutchley’s side took the lead again. Mikey Hoare showed some terrific skill along the baseline and when Vanasch was unable to clear, Brogdon was on hand to stab home from close range.

Belgium started the second half strongly and Harry Gibson, a half time replacement in goal had to be alert to smother from Sebastien Dockier. In the 38th minute it was all level again. Belgium won the ball on half way and swept into the Great Britain circle. Hoare could do nothing as he was outnumbered and Van Aubel’s pass was turned in by Cosyns on the far post.

Great Britain responded and won a penalty corner but were unable to convert the chance. However in the 40th minute they took the lead for the third time. Forsyth hit a superb shot on the backhand into the bottom corner for his 50th international goal. The joy was short-lived as Belgium won a penalty stroke two minutes later, which Tom Boon slotted home to tie it up once again, bringing a frantic third quarter to a close.

It was more of the same in the final quarter. Belgium won a penalty corner with 12 minutes remaining but Boon could not get the shot away and Great Britain pounced on the loose ball to clear the danger. Dockier blazed a backhand strike over the bar and then at the other end David Condon forced a stunning save from Vanasch as both sides threw caution to the wind in search of a winner.

GB won a late penalty corner but Roper’s shot was charged down and it still remained level. With three minutes left, Belgium took off goalkeeper Vanasch and went in search of a winner. Van Aubel crashed a deflection into the side netting but there were no further goals. The draw ensured Great Britain take top spot in the pool and will play India in the quarter finals.

The quarter final on Thursday 3 December will be between Great Britain and India at 13:00 UK time, live on BT Sport.

Quotes – David Ralph, Great Britain Assistant Coach:

“We were a little up and down today. We played well in some periods of the game but we didn’t stick to our game plan in others and that made it hard to play at the levels we are capable of. We lost control of the game for longer than we would like and as a result that allowed Belgium to dominate.

They are a very good side and you always have to fight to get anything from games against them but perhaps if our execution of skills and game plans had been better we would have had more control.

It’s pleasing to see us scoring goals. It’s something we work hard on in training so it’s nice to see it come to fruition in a tournament. We’d like to defend better however so that we’re not conceding quite as many.

Alan Forsyth has great ability in the circle and that’s his real strength. That’s why he came into the squad and he took his goal really well, but that’s what he does and why he has the strike rate he does.

India are a tough side to play at any time. India in India is an even tougher prospect. The atmosphere and their fans make a big difference. It’ll be a great experience for some of our team and we’re relishing the prospect of playing against them.”