Spain pick additional point on Hockey Pro League opening day
Spanish star Xavi Lleonart hailed their opening game in the FIH Pro League as “an incredible game” as they came back from 2-0 with two minutes to go to draw with Belgium before winning a bonus point shoot-out.
Speaking at the conclusion of the contest, the man of the match said: “I think it was an incredible game. We started really well. Yes, we conceded two goals but we still really believed in our team.
“We showed that our level can be the same as the Belgian team, so we are really happy and really excited about playing in this competition.”
Spain, keen to make up for their disappointing pool stage elimination at the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018, were outstanding against the winners of that event, with Belgium shot-stopper Vincent Vanasch making numerous key saves to stop the Red Sticks from taking the lead in the early exchanges.
Spain were probably the better team for most of the first two periods of the match, although Belgium would certainly have broken the deadlock were it not for some top class saves from Quico Cortes, who twice denied the ever-dangerous Tom Boon while Tanguy Cosyns also blazed a shot wide of the target.
Despite the entertainment, the opening two periods remained score-less. However, that all changed in the third period when Belgium’s Max Plennevaux struck brilliant backhand strike on the half-volley to give the Red Lions a 1-0 lead midway through the period after Spain failed to effectively clear the danger.
When Belgium doubled their lead with five minutes remaining thanks to a penalty corner drag-flick from Alexander Hendrickx, it seemed that Spain’s chances of claiming something from the match had ended.
However, the Red Sticks never stopped believing and deservedly pulled a goal back with just over two minutes of the match remaining thanks to Ignacio Rodriguez, who guided Pau Quemada’s low penalty corner flick between the legs of Vanasch to halve the deficit.
Sensing that the comeback was on, Spain immediately replaced goalkeeper Cortes with an outfield player in a bid to overload the Belgian defence.
It was a tactic that paid off with just ten seconds remaining, as Enrique Gonzalez flicked into the Belgian net to level the scores and force a shoot-out in which Cortes excelled.
The vastly-experienced Spanish goalkeeper did not concede in the shoot-out, with Josep Romeu and Alvaro Iglesias scoring for the Red Sticks to give Spain two points from the opening match of the FIH Pro League, with Belgium taking one point from the encounter.
Source: Field Hockey