The Hockeyroos have pulled off a Houdini act to secure a thrilling penalty shootout win over Belgium in their first match of the 2020 FIH Pro League season.
Two goals in the final two minutes, from Edwina Bone and then Kalindi Commerford with seconds left on the clock drew the Hockeyroos level after Belgium had earlier turned around a one goal deficit to lead 3-1 with five minutes to go.
The Hockeyroos then held their nerve to prevail 4-2 in the penalty shootout, goalkeeper Jocelyn Bartram coming up with some clutch saves before Jane Claxton scored the penalty to decide the outcome.
Up against a Belgium team that won both of the teams’ Pro League encounters last year, the Hockeyroos had the better of the first half and the home side went ahead in the 21st minute.
Georgia Wilson caused a turnover on the attacking 20 metre line and found Rosie Malone inside the attacking circle. Receiving the pass with her back to goal, Malone took a touch to give herself room and sent a reverse stick shot past Belgian goalkeeper Aisling D’Hooghe.
The score remained 1-0 at half time but three minutes into the third quarter Belgium equalised courtesy of Louise Versavel.
Brooke Peris went inches from restoring the Hockeyroos’ advantage but instead it was the Belgians that went into the last quarter in front as straight from Peris’ miss, Charlotte Engelbert ghosted totally unchecked into the circle to get on a searching ball from the right to tap home from point blank range.
Belgian captain Barbara Nelen then made it 3-1 in the 55th minute and it looked as though their stranglehold over the Hockeyroos would continue.
But when Bone pulled a goal back with not more than a minute remaining, the Hockeyroos surged forward for one last gasp and Commerford, who has pledged to donate $50 for every goal scored and $100 for every goal she scores this weekend to the bushfire relief in southern NSW, got the slightest deflection with a second to go to make it 3-3.
The subsequent challenge from the Belgians and review of the video umpire who made the decision that the goal would stand just added to the remarkable finish.
“In the second half we almost stopped playing. We weren’t committing to execute things but what was pleasing was finding a way to get back into the game,” Hockeyroos Head Coach Paul Gaudoin said post match.
“That’s something that we’re going to need to build on…there will be times you are going well and times when you aren’t, so it was pleasing to see the girls get something out of the game.
“Whilst we will acknowledge the fightback and finding a way to win, it won’t mask the bigger picture that we have to play better for 60 minutes, take our chances when they come and deny them easy opportunities.
“It was pleasing to find a way to win.”
The teams will meet again tomorrow at the same venue with push back at 3.00pm AEDT. Tickets for the match and next weekend’s double headers against Great Britain are available now through Ticketek.
Hockeyroos 3 (Malone 21’, Bone 59’, Commerford 60’)
Belgium 3 (Versavel 33’, Englebert 45’, Nelen 55’)
Hockeyroos win 4-2 on penalties
@ Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre
Hockeyroos: 1.Sophie TAYLOR, 2.Rosie MALONE, 3.Brooke PERIS, 4.Amy LAWTON, 7.Jodie KENNY, 8.Georgia WILSON, 11.Karri McMAHON, 13.Edwina BONE, 14.Stephanie KERSHAW, 15.Kaitlin NOBBS, 16.Gabrielle NANCE, 18.Jane CLAXTON, 19.Jocelyn BARTRAM (gk), 21.Renee TAYLOR, 22.Kate JENNER, 23.Kalindi COMMERFORD, 26.Emily CHALKER (c), 30 Grace STEWART
Unused substitute: 27.Rachael LYNCH (gk)
Belgium: 2.Sophie LIMAUGE, 3.Abi RAYE, 7.Judith VANDERMEIREN, 8.Emma PUVREZ, 10.Louise VERSAVEL, 11.Joanne PEETERS, 15.Anne-Sophie WEYNS, 16.Tiphanie DUQUESNE, 19.Barbara NELEN (c), 21.Aisling D’HOOGHE (gk), 25.Pauline LECLEF, 26.Lien HILLEWAERT, 28.Justine RASIR, 30.Ambre BALLENGHIEN, 31.Lucie BREYNE, 32.Charlotte ENGLEBERT, 33.Alexia ‘T SERSTEVENS
Unused substitute: 23.Elena SOTGIU (gk)
FIH Pro League 2020 matches – Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre
Sunday 26 January
Hockeyroos v Belgium (3:00pm local)
Saturday 1 February
Hockeyroos v Great Britain (6:30pm local)
Sunday 2 February
Hockeyroos v Great Britain (5:30pm local)
Click here for a full list of the Hockeyroos’ FIH Pro League 2020 fixtures.