Belgium have come within minutes of defeating Australia for the first time ever in a remarkable comeback, instead forcing a draw with their highly fancied opponents in the first game of their three test series in Canberra.
Having never defeated the Kookaburras from 14 attempts, four second half goals gave Belgium their best chance after trailing by three goals at half time.
However a penalty corner conversion to veteran Luke Doerner at the 68 minute mark prevented the Kookaburras from suffering an unexpected defeated.
A late surge in the dying minutes of the first half was enough to deliver the Kookaburras a comfortable three goal lead at half time, however Belgium were more than competitive in the early stages.
Although missing several key players, the young guns for the Kookaburra performed well, with debutant Mark Paterson a major target up forward for Australia early in the match.
Belgium refused to be intimidated by their higher ranking opponents and made goalkeeper Nathan Burgers work overtime to keep his team’s goal sheet clean.
With play makers Jamie Dwyer, Rob Hammond and Mark Knowles all missing from the squad and senior players Grant Schubert and Kiel Brown sitting in the stands, the likes of David Guest and Eddie Ockenden worked hard in the midfield, however the Aussies still couldn’t shake their European opponents.
Belgium produced two penalty corner attempts within minutes mid way through the half however thanks to some solid defensive work from the likes of Nathan Burgers and Matthew Butturini, Belgium still remained goalless.
The game continued to see-saw throughout the first half however the Kookaburras gradually looked to be the stronger team, with the likes of Ockenden and Russell Ford looking dangerous around goal.
With both teams coming so close to scoring on so many occasions a scored seemed inevitable.
A cross from Luke Doerner to Mark Paterson eventually did the job, with Paterson’s shot blocked but swooped on by striker Eli Matheson to hand the Kookaburras the lead.
The goal seemingly broke Belgium’s spirit, with the Kookaburras slamming on two more goals within minutes thanks to Simon Orchard and Luke Doerner to enter the half time break well in front.
The Kookaburras continued their good form early in the second half however after failing to take advantage of some scoring opportunities Belgium finally scored a well deserved goal to bring themselves back in the game.
When Belgium converted a penalty corner only minutes later, followed by another field goal, the game was back to square one and the pressure was again placed on the Kookaburras.
Both teams shared control of the ball for the next ten minutes with Eddie Ockenden and Mark Paterson doing their best to lift the team and regain the lead.
However a goal against play to Belgium at the 57 minute mark put them in front for the first time in the match, bringing them within minutes of defeating Australia for the first time.
Showing a level of professionalism that the Kookaburras have become famous for, Australia refused to panic and with only two minutes remaining Luke Doerner converted his second penalty corner for the match to tie the game.
Kookaburras coach said there were too many internal mistakes, admitting that the team played below its best.
”It was our fault tonight, we made too many mistakes and if you make too many mistakes you wont get the result you want. We can improve a lot. Sometimes a team losses five goals to nothing and then wins the next. That can happen, mainly our problems tonight were our own fault, and those are things we can rectify,” said Charlesworth.
Australia – Belgium 4-4 (3-0)
Goals – Aus Matheson 29m FG, Aus Orchard 32m FG, Aus Doerner 34m PC/ 68m PC, Bel Briels 39m FG, Bel Dekeyser 44m PC, Bel Boon 47m FG, Bel Luycx 57m FG
Source: Hockey Australia
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