TOKYO: World champions Belgium beat the Netherlands 3-1 in the men’s hockey tournament at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday thanks to a stunning hat-trick from Alexander Hendrickx, while Germany and Britain also won their first group matches.
The Dutch women’s team, who are favourites to win their competition, defeated India, lifted by two crucial goals from rookie midfielder Felice Albers, who made her Olympic debut.
Hendrickx scored three goals -- one on penalty stroke and the other two from penalty corners -- in five minutes as the Belgians came back from a goal down to take revenge on the side that beat them in the EuroHockey semi-finals last month.
Germany thrashed Canada 7-1, with two goals each from explosive forward Jan Ruhr and defender Lukas Windfeder.
Britain, who have won Olympic gold in the men’s tournament three times, defeated South Africa 3-1 helped by a second minute goal from Sam Ward and two more in the second half.
Earlier on Saturday, Australia beat hosts Japan 5-3 in a thrilling opening match, while India recovered from a goal down to defeat New Zealand 3-2.
In the women’s tournament, world and European champions the Netherlands beat India 5-1, helped by goals from Albers, 21, who is the youngest player on the Dutch side.
Ireland’s women’s team beat South Africa 2-0 at their first Olympics.
In the men’s tournament, Australia’s ‘Kookaburras’ trailed 3-2 at halftime against Japan after conceding three goals in quick succession but kept fighting to turn the tables in the final two quarters.
The Australians pulled level in the 34th minute after Blake Govers scored a penalty corner and went ahead on the sun-drenched pitch of the main stadium with a backhand shot from captain Aran Zalewski that flew high in the net. Midfielder Daniel Beale took an assist from forward Tim Brand to put the game away.
Rio gold medallists Argentina drew 1-1 with Spain after conceding in the 52nd minute while playing with a man down following a yellow card minutes earlier.
India conceded early against New Zealand but equalised quickly through a penalty stroke and roared on to win, with two goals from Harmanpreet Singh and one from Rupinder Pal Singh.
Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2021