Great Britain 2
Balsdon (43′, PC)
Owsley (53′, FG)
Superb goals from Grace Balsdon and Lily Owsley earned Great Britain’s women their first FIH Pro League win in London.
Having been unlucky to only take a point from Argentina on Saturday, Mark Hager’s side were impressive once again, and put in an excellent display to take all three points.
Britain were dominant throughout but found Belgian keeper Aisling D’Hooghe in superb form, especially in the first half when GB made 19 circle entries. However the deadlock was broken when Grace Balson lashed home a superb penalty corner on her 50th international appearance.
And with time ticking, the hugely impressive Lily Owsley capped her performance with a stunning goal, running from halfway before smacking home with seven minutes to go.
The win took GB up into sixth in the table, and with more key matches to come – especially at home – they will be looking to make further inroads in this year’s inaugural FIH Pro League.
It was Britain who created the first close call, young Izzy Petter doing well down the right hand side and almost finding Hannah Martin sliding in close to goal. So no goals at the end of the first quarter but at that point GB had enjoyed 66% of the possession.
Into the second quarter and again it was Britain on the front foot early on, Anna Toman and Hollie Pearne-Webb combining well to set up Martin for a good chance; Aisling D’Hooghe making an important save. Soon afterwards Laura Unsworth thought she had a rare goal, only for it to be ruled out on referral for coming off the back of her stick. And then D’Hooghe made a superb stop to deny Martin again after she combined expertly with the omnipresent Lily Owsley.
The Belgian goal looked to be leading a charmed life as D’Hooghe was beaten right on half time – only for Petter’s effort to hit the post and bounce back out.
After the break GB maintained their good play, Hollie Pearne-Webb putting in a great tackle to sprout an attack that again saw D’Hooghe make a good save; this time blocking Anna Toman’s effort from a Petter pass.
There was nothing she could do about Grace Balsdon’s drag flick though; the defender ripping the ball high into the net on the day she celebrated her 50th international appearance.
The final quarter started with a little more defensive work for GB to do, Amy Tennant having to make a rare save at her near post. But the pressure did not last long, Owsley scoring a fabulous goal after picking the ball up on halfway, running at the defence and producing a great finish for 2-0. The 24-year-old has been in stunning form recently, and made it two goals in two days with a brilliant solo effort.
It was not completely game over though, Tennant forced into a trio of important saves from a series of Belgium corners, before a slightly hairy moment when the visitors wanted a penalty stroke, only for their referral to be unsuccessful.
GB expertly saw out the last few minutes to round off a really good pair of performances over the course of this weekend. Firstly they were unfortunate to only take a point from Argentina on Saturday, then put in an excellent display to see off Belgium.
With more home games to come against Germany, Australia, Netherlands and New Zealand, Mark Hager’s side go into the final phase of FIH Pro League matches in an upbeat fashion. Having played with purpose and attacking skill over the course of this weekend, there is a renewed sense of optimism around the women’s programme. Of course there is much work still to be done, but boss Hager will be encouraged by what he saw at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.
Great Britain: Tennant (GK), Unsworth, Toman, Ansley, Pearne-Webb (c), Balsdon, Costello, Jones, Evans, Defroand, Owsley, Hunter, Petty, Robertson, Petter, Martin, TownsendUnused: Heesh (GK)
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