Bhubaneswar, 6 December 2014: Thomas Briels’ delightful third quarter goal helped Belgium nab an opening day 2-1 victory over Pakistan to get their Hero Hockey Champions Trophy up and running in strong fashion.
The Belgians had the half time lead when Tanguy Cosyns (12’) scrambled home at the right post after a left wing attack spun invitingly for him. They had the guts of the play from there on, creating eight circle entries, but were unable to break through the Pakistan defences. Tom Boon did draw a top save from Imran Butt from a high corner two minutes before the break to keep the margin at the minimum.
Pakistan improved markedly in the second half and was back on terms when a corner flick hit Loick Luypaert on the body. After an umpire’s consultation, a penalty stroke was awarded which team captain Muhammad Imran duly converted, wrong-footing Vincent Vanasch.
But Briels (43’) restored the lead in stunning style, finishing off with a delicate flip after Tom Boon eliminated a couple of defenders with some lovely stickwork and they held on in reasonable comfort to the lead for all the points on day one.
Commenting on their win, Belgium Captain John-John Dohmen said, “We are really happy with the result as Pakistan is a really good side. We did not play great but we didn’t play badly but we just need to play together a bit more in the next game.”
“The penalty corners can be better. Also, our outletting was a little bit slow which, for us, is difficult because we like to play it fast. Tomorrow (against Australia) will be a great game for us. Playing the world champions who I think are the best team here – even though they lost today. They might be a bit angry to win this game.”
Belgium Coach Jeroen Delmee, further added, “We started off very well in the first quarter and had a good hold on the game. But eventually we lost that control which we should not have but we will come back strong next game. The win today will improve us and this is good as we will face Australia tomorrow.”
Speaking after the match, Pakistan Captain Muhammad Imran said, “We have a mix of both young and experience players in the team, out of which we have about 4-5 player those who are playing for the first time on an international platform. I am proud of the way the team has played today despite of the fact that for almost one and a half years we did not play any international tournament. We are prepared and will be putting in extra efforts hereon.”
Speaking on the team’s performance, Pakistan Coach Shahnaz Sheikh said, “Very happy with the performance of the boys as after a long gap we played with a European team. It was an even game today and it was satisfying in the manner that we countered their game. We just lost it by one goal and this I think because of the inexperience on our side. We will come back strong in our next outing against England”.