England 2 (0)
Ward (32’, PC, 53’, PC)
Belgium 3 (1)
Boon (12’, PS, 52’, PC), Briels (41’, FG)
England’s men were denied a bronze medal at the EuroHockey Championships with a 3-2 loss to Belgium.
Having beaten the reigning champions in the group stage, Belgium would get their revenge in a match that was evenly contested throughout.
Tom Boon gave the Belgians the advantage with the only goal of the first-half, Sam Ward’s brilliant brace not enough to pull things back as goals from Thomas Briels and another from Boon secured Belgium the bronze medal.
England looked bright in the opening minutes, Phil Roper weaving his way into the circle and finding Chris Griffiths whose shot veered narrowly wide of goal.
The momentum continued in England’s favour, the ball falling nicely for Roper to hammer the ball on target only to be denied by a super save from Vincent Vanasch in goal.
Belgium sprung into life and had the lead with just over ten minutes on the clock. Ollie Payne had made two saves in quick succession only for the Belgians to be awarded a penalty stroke, Tom Boon stepping up and slotting the ball in.
Payne was called into action a minute later to prevent Sebastien Dockier from doubling the advantage with a smart save.
Adam Dixon came close to levelling the scores at the end of the opening quarter only to see Vanasch there to prevent his drag flick from finding the backboard, Griffiths’ shot on the rebound being taken wide by a Belgian block.
The team continued with the same attacking intensity, David Goodfield coming close to converting Sam Ward’s precise pass into the circle only to see his effort blocked by Vanasch.
An end-to-end half saw chances falling to both sides as the goalkeepers at either end continued to impress, the pick of the saves being made by Payne who showed lightning reflexes to halt Boon’s searing drive from close range.
England began the second half with the perfect response as Ward rifled a drag flick into the back of the net to level the scores and again demonstrate their strength from penalty corners.
The team nearly had another, Roper forcing a good save with his shot on the reverse before the ball was flashed across goal only for Vanasch to intercept just before it reached Griffiths sliding in at the far post.
However, failing to convert the chances proved costly as Belgium expertly moved the ball around the field and worked it past Payne with Thomas Briels’ deflection proving decisive.
The goals were flying in, Boon bagging his second of the game with a thumping drag flick before Ward repeated the act with one of his own finding the top corner of the net as both players recorded their second goal of the game.
Those goals, falling just one minute apart, ensured we would see a thrilling conclusion to the match as both sides battled to leave Amsterdam with a medal.
Try as England might with Payne removed and an extra outfield player, the goal was not forthcoming as Belgium clung on to their advantage and secured the bronze medal with a 3-2 victory.
After the match, Head Coach Danny Kerry commented: “I feel for the lads. We couldn’t ask more of how they have carried themselves and played through this tournament. Our hockey is now a threat to anyone, and we will work hard to close the fine margins. On a personal level I feel proud to work with such a great bunch of men and such a great staff.”
Captain Adam Dixon also added: “Losing is never easy to take and this will hurt for some time knowing that we were so close today. We went toe to toe with the World Champions and for large parts we were the better of the two teams. I’ve been in these games before and felt a sense of regret that we hadn’t put ourselves out there - that wasn’t the case today or for the past week. I’m incredibly proud of how players and staff have conducted themselves this week."
Starting XI: Ames, Griffiths, Roper, Dixon (C), Payne (GK), Ansell, Condon, Waller, Sanford, Sorsby, Wallace
Subs (Used): Martin, Sloan, Ward, Creed, Goodfield, Calnan
Subs (Unused): Pinner