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Zoe's strike proves in vain for Ireland

 

Zoe Wilson
Zoe Wilson

By John Flack

Ireland's women fell to a disappointing 4-2 defeat at the hands of Belgium in last night's international in Antwerp.

The hosts, although under pressure for much of the game, showed a more clinical touch in front of goal, especially from set-pieces.

Although they forced only four penalty corners, Belgium scored from three of them - a much higher ratio than the norm in international hockey.

Both teams are using the two-match series to prepare for the European Championship, which gets under way at the same venue on Sunday week.

Belgium took the lead in the first quarter through a penalty corner and, after being denied on several occasions by some resolute defending, Ireland levelled early in the second half.

Sarah Hawkshaw got the vital touch at the far post to convert a teasing backhand cross from Ulster's Katie Mullan, the captain.

Belgium took off their keeper for the rest of the third quarter to have an extra outfielder but it stayed 1-1 until the last 15 minutes.

However, the World No.9 nation - ranked one place higher than the visitors - went 3-1 up after scoring two more penalty corners in quick succession.

Randalstown's Zoe Wilson pulled one back from another set-piece with 10 minutes left but the Belgians sealed the deal with a late goal.

Ireland will be hoping for a better performance in the second game between the sides tomorrow (3pm).

Meanwhile, Canada have been added to the list of Ireland's potential opponents in the Olympic qualifiers following their surprise win over USA in the semi-finals of the Pan American Games.

As things stand, Sean Dancer's team will face either of the two American teams, China or Korea later this year in a two-legged contest with a place in Tokyo next year at stake.

The precise match-ups will be determined in early September.

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