Inclement weather did create disturbances but all the games were gone through. The women’s match had a 55-minute weather induced break on otherwise hot Sydney afternoons.
Having taken the world number 1 ranking position from their opponents thanks to a shoot-out bonus point earned on Saturday, Belgium men came into Sunday’s second meeting knowing that a positive result for the hosts would put the Kookaburras back at the top of the rankings. However, a superb 4-2 win ensured that the Red Lions will leave Australia with their position as the world top-ranked team intact, with the reigning World and European champions taking five points from a possible six against the winners of the 2019 FIH Hockey Pro League.
Player of the Match Alexander Hendrickx put Belgium into a 2-0 lead before a cracking backhand strike from Australia’s Lachlan Sharp reduced the deficit. A wonderful deflection into the roof of the net from Maxime Plennevaux put Belgium 3-1 up with four minutes remaining, forcing Australia to go for broke and replace its goalkeeper with an outfield player. That tactic backfired when a rapid Belgian breakaway allowed Emmanuel Stockbroekx to slap into an unguarded net before Jeremy Hayward bagged a final minute consolation penalty corner goal for the Kookaburras.
Jeremy Hayward, playing his 151st international today, scored his second goal in two games.
“I think we are very pleased”, said Alexander Hendrickx post-match. “We started the game well, we took control of the pace, we held the ball in the team and I think it was a deserved win. We took the number one spot from Australia yesterday, and I think we will try to hold onto it as long as possible.”
Australia co-captain Eddie Ockenden said: “We were in the game a lot today and it was a close match, but we need to play a bit better and that will come in the next few weeks. That’s the great thing about the Pro League, we play the best teams in the world, twice, every year and that is fantastic. To play a great team in our first two games has been awesome for us to learn and get better.”