Matteo Gryspeerdt was the hero for KHC Dragons as the goalkeeper pulled off saves from Laurence Docherty and Sander De Wijn in the shootout to send the Belgian side into the KO8 stage after an entertaining 2-2 draw with SV Kampong.
The two sides could not be separated during the 70 minutes as goals from Thierry Brinkman and Robbert Kemperman were cancelled out by strikes from Matthew Cobbaert and Jerome Saeys for Dragons and so a shootout was required, allowing Gryspeerdt his moment in the sun.
In arguably the tie of the round the Dutch side threatened first as Brinkman went close with a reverse stick shot from just inside the D on the right that went over the bar. Kampong also wasted a penalty corner as the ball was not stopped, preventing Martijn Havenga getting his shot away but with three minutes left in the quarter Alexander Cox’s side took the lead. Manu Leroy did will to keep out the initial shot at goal but the ball popped up off his glove and fell for Brinkman to smash home the rebound and make it 1-0.
Dragons levelled the scores just four minutes after the start of the second quarter. A good move down the left provided Cobbaert with a simple tap in at the far post and it was all square again. Thereafter, Dragons enjoyed a good spell of pressure. Loick Luypaert, so often the goalscoring hero for his side had their best chance but he flicked a penalty corner wide of the target. Then, just three minutes before half time Kampong took the lead once more. Kemperman entered the D on the left and as is his trademark, “Mr Backhand” hit a fierce reverse stick shot into the net. A video referral was called as there was some debate about whether he was in the D or not but the goal was given.
Kampong tried to build on their advantage at the start of the third quarter putting the Dragons’ defence under extreme pressure. Twice in the opening minutes of the quarter Roderick Weusthof passed when he should have shot and the defence scrambled the ball clear.They were made to pay for their wastefulness in front of goal as Dragons tied the scores again in the 40th minute. Arthur Van Doren’s pass into the D seemed to hit a foot and with all the defenders stopping in anticipation of the whistle Saeys seized on the lapse in concentration and scored to make it 2-2.
Jonker slipped away from his marker well at the start of the fourth quarter but Leroy made a fine save to keep the chance out and then Leroy was indebted to his defence as the same player seemed certain to turn Erik Bouwens’ cross in, only to be thwarted by a defender’s stick at the last moment. Luypaert had another penalty corner chance at the other end with the clock running down but Robin Den Boer got out to charge the flick down and so the game headed to a shootout.
Gryspeerdt replaced Leroy in goal and although Caspers beat him with the first attempt of the shootout, it was a move that would pay dividends. Davey Harte saved from Cobbaert to keep Kampong in the lead after one round each but then Gryspeerdt saved from Docherty. Florent Van Aubel scored and then De Wijn was denied by the Dragons keeper to make it all square once again. Luypaert scored at the second attempt and then Kemperman, unsurprisingly, went on the reverse and found the roof the net. Van Doren made it 3-2 and then Bouwens equalised. That left Felix Denayer the chance to win it, which he duly took with a lovely spin and shot. The Dragons players ran straight towards their fans who had not stopped singing the whole game as they tried to spur their team on.
The Belgian outfit have a great history in this competition finishing third in 2011/12 and runners-up last year. With another Dutch scalp under their belts, is this to be their year at last?