New Zealand vs. Belgium
7.00pm push back
New Zealand come into this game as Commonwealth Games champions and will be wanting to keep up the hard work in this London Word Cup. The first short corner goes to the Kiwi’s, with a little over two minutes played. The shot goes down to the keeper’s right and is saved comfortably. Both teams are pressing and testing each other out, without many clear cut chances. In the ninth minute, Alix Gerniers of Belgium plays a ball into the circle, but her team mate can’t connect.
The Irish correspondent next to me, says that he expects that this game will be a bit like chess, with the players capitalising on the mistakes of opponents. This could be a good shout.
Belgium win a long corner with only a few seconds of the first period remaining after Barbara Nelen fires a ball into the circle at a 45 degree angle from the right. They drag it wide, just as the hooter goes the end of the first quarter. It’s even-stevens with no goals scored at the break.
The second quarter gets under way. Belgium are looking good defending the outside of their circle, looking to break on the counter. But New Zealand still manage to drag a shot wide of the left hand post after a couple of minutes.
A poor trap from the Kiwi’s number 32, Anita McLaren, forces her keeper to improvise with a clearance after Belgium drill another pass into the circle from the left hand side. On the other hand, Belgium’s centre back Stephanie van den Borre is looking like she has very good levels of distribution, making passes short and long forward out from the back.
In the eight minute New Zealand captain Stacey Michelsen plays a through ball to a team mate, who picks the ball up inside the circle, but Belgium keeper, Aisling D’Hooghe smothers it and the Kiwi’s don’t capitalise on the resulting long corner.
A minute later, Belgium’s Judith Vandermeiren is shown a green card. Almost immediately after this New Zealand get a short corner. Anita McLaren pushes the ball towards goal from the second castle, for 23 year old Kelsey Smith to deflect in, as she ran towards the left hand post and the Black Stics take the lead.
Belgium attack down their right, enter the circle, and Alix Gerniers fires a shot, that is hit true, but wide. In the thirteenth minute, Gerniers is on the ball again, she feeds her captain Anouk Raes, who then centres the ball across the goal. There’s a scramble, with a shot from Belgium, another scramble Gerniers on the ball again and somehow Louise Versavel pops up with an equaliser, for Belgium.
The Red Panthers can taste blood and Sophie Limauge picks the ball up around the half way, drives forward and lays it off to Nelen, who then moves the ball left to Raes. She crashes a ball across the top of the circle. New Zealand’s McLaren misses the interception and Jill Boon, who is on the right side of the circle smashes home their second. As we approach half time, Belgium have looked slightly the better team and take the lead into the ten minute break.
With just over a minute played of second half, New Zealand look to equalise and win a short corner. Anita McLaren takes the shot again and Shiloh Gloyn makes a deflection just in front of Aisling D’Hooghe. Goal! Two goals a piece. Within twenty seconds of the equaliser Olivia Merry drives into the circle, takes a revers stick hit scores her teams third. The Kiwi’s are now leading for the second time in the game.
Anita McLaren is looking lively and living up to her billing in, as the ‘Official Event Guide’ has put her down as a “One to Watch’. In the sixth minute of the third quarter she unleashes a rather fierce reverse hit, from the left, forcing the keeper into a save.
In the seventh minute the Belgium fans down in front of the press box think that their team deserve a short corner and their team indeed do ask for one, referring a decision. The Irish journalist next to me thinks that it definitely hits the Kiwi’s foot inside her own circle, but the video umpire doesn’t agree. Belgium lose their chance to disagree with a decision again. New Zealand go on the counter attack up the other end of the pitch and get a short corner of their own, for an obvious foot in the circle. This time their attempts is deflected over the bar, by their own player. This is their first short corner that they have’t scored from.
Both teams are looking capable of getting another goal. Belgium are having a sustained period of possession now, in attacking areas, with Nelen forcing Sally Rutherford, the kiwi keeper to make a save. In the thirteenth minute Belgium come forward again, with Nelen, being involved in the build up, but the final shot goes wide of the left post. The Red Panthers have dominated that third period, but the score remains 3 – 2 for New Zealand.
In the third minute fourth period Michelsen, plays ball into the Belgium circle, her team mate picks it up and flashes it across the face of the goal, but possession is turned over. Kelsey Smith gets the ball down the left, it’s sent towards the right post, hits the keeper, rebounds and is thwacked at goal and hitting the belgium defender Lien Hillewaert, who’s on the line in the lower back. The umpire gives a penalty stroke, but refers this herself, just to double check, as the whole thing happened so fast. The decision is upheld. Olivia Merry steps up, putting the shot to her left, sending the keeper the wrong way and her team are now winning four goals to Belgium’s two.
There are three minutes remaining and Kiwi are being forced back a bit and defending in large numbers. Belgium are even pressing high, but Merry finds herself in the circle, after a long ball played out from her team’s defensive position. Belgium cover their angles and win the ball back on the left baseline, after nearly being caught out searching for a way back into the match.
The final score is New Zealand 4 – 2 Belgium. The player of the match award goes to Olivia Merry of the Black Sticks.