POL v BEL 1-4 (0-3)
Poland put in a brave defensive performance to keep a rampant Belgium attack to four goals, despite much of the game being focused in the Belgium attacking half. A consolation goal was nothing less than the Polish team deserved although Belgium must take credit for their innovative and energetic attacking play, so much in contrast to their earlier turgid 0-0 encounter with Spain.
The Red Panthers took the lead when Barbara Nelen worked some trickery down the right side of the pitch to outwit the Polish defence. Her pass found Versavel (13′), who lifted it over ‘keeper Marta Kucharska.
Belgium started brightly in the second quarter, Alix Gerniers (17′) was on hand to benefit from a rebounded penalty corner shot to double her team’s lead. The goalscorer’s joy was short-lived as she left the field with an injury seconds later.
Emilie Sinia (20′) extended her team’s lead with a virtual mirror image of the previous effort. The ball was slipped back to Sinia after Manon Simons had taken the ball to the right-hand back line and then cut the ball back into the danger zone.
While it was Belgium who were putting the ball in the back of the net, Poland were by no means outplayed. Natalia Wisniewska and Paulina Okaj were effectively challenging Belgium on the right-side of the pitch and despite conceding goals, player of the match Kucharska was having a good game as the last line of defence. The problem for Poland lay in their final execution of the skill.
The second half began with a lovely solo effort from Judith Vandermeiren (31′). The player picked up the ball outside the circle and ran into the circle unopposed before unleashing a shot into the corner of the goal.
Poland’s cause was not helped when Adrianna Marchinkowska was given a yellow card and the Polish team found themselves defending a Belgium team who were enjoying a significantly higher possession rate. Kurcharska made a tremendous triple save to deny Belgium a fifth and the Poles saw out the one-player disadvantage.
In the final quarter Belgium went in search of goal number five, pressing so high that only Aisling D’Hooghe in the Belgium goal was not in the half, but a hardworking Polish defence was able to stem the tide. In a move that delighted the impartial spectators, Poland scored a consolation goal through Pauline Okaj to finish the game on a positive note.
“That was hard work,” said Kurcharska, “Everytime the Belgiums shot, there were four or five players ready for the rebound. In the next game, we need the defence to get in front of their players and play together as a team in all areas of the pitch, we were a bit too individualistic out there today.”
- See more at: http://eurohockey2015.co.uk/belgium-finds-top-gear/#sthash.FXRTqkNO.dpuf
photos Janos Schmidt