Irish cruise past limp Russian challenge to top Group B; USA next on the list on Thursday

FIH Champions Challenge II
Group B: Ireland 4 (Mikey Watt, Chris Cargo, Eugene Magee, Peter Blakeney) Russia 0
Ireland cruised to a comfortable 4-0 victory over Russia, netting twice in each half to move to top Group B with France not scoring a big enough win over Scotland to overhaul them.

Indeed, it might have been a few more as Ireland again let a few chances slip but were comfortable throughout.

A high, aggressive press has given Ireland plenty of joy thus far this week and it yielded the first goal in the seventh minute. Central to this has been David Ames and he once again stole the ball and played in Mikey Watt to hand Ireland a seventh minute lead.

From there, Russia were only fleetingly involved in the game, as the Irish created a number of chances. Cargo’s reverse-stick cross not quite finding Alan Giles’ stick while Geoff McCabe and Stu Loughrey both miscued after creating their own chances with individual dash.

The second came in sublime fashion. Ronan Gormley’s disguised pass found Peter Caruth alone on the right wing and he laid on a perfectly weighted diagonal pass for Chris Cargo to tip in at the back post.

In the heat, Russia were not really helping themselves with three players binned in the first half alone and they fell further behind in the 44th minute.

It was another cracking effort. Eugene Magee smacked it into the corner from the circle’s edge after Ames jinked past two defenders, laying on a first time shooting chance for the Banbridge man.

And Peter Blakeney completed the rout in the 63rd minute from the first penalty corner of the game, zipping past Roman Rogov’s diving stick.

Speaking afterwards, coach Paul Revington said he didn’t mind who his side plays in the quarter-final and was pleased that the side was showing signs of improvement.

“It’s good form to take into the next round, in essence that’s the most important thing. It was a good professional performance.

“We’re reasonably satisfied. If we keep improving day by day then we’ll be happy. We can take quite a bit from a game like this. There are areas we need to tidy up but we’re a good way towards doing that.”

Afterwards, defender Joe Brennan told the Hook that while the group stages have seen Ireland impress, the main target is very much building toward the Europeans in August.

Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, G McCabe, R Gormley, M Watt, J Brennan, E Magee, P Caruth, G Watkins, D Ames, P Gleghorne
Subs: C Cargo, A Giles, A McConnell, P Blakeney, S Loughrey

Russia: R Rogov, E Mokrousov, I Larikov, S Kostarev, A Zhirkov, R Zakirov, A Mamoshkin, N Yankun, I Loginov, D Azarov, A Platonov
Subs: N Komarov, D Volkov, P Golubev, S Matkovskiy, A Kornilov

France 3 (T Genestet, L Sevestre, M Catonnet) Scotland 2 (F Dunn, D Coultas)
France, meanwhile, produced a blistering second half performance to bounce back from a half-time deficit. Fergus Dunn’s rising drag-flick was the only goal of the first half. But three goals from play in quick succession from Tom Genestet, Lucas Sevestre and a third of the tournament from Matthieu Catonnet put France well in control.

Dan Coultas added another corner goal to Scotland’s tally late on and they piled forward looking for an equaliser but the French defence stood firm for the three points.

Group B final standings: 1. Ireland 7pts (+5) 2. France 7pts (+2) 3. Russia 3pts (-4) 4. Scotland 0pts (-3)

Group A results: USA 1 (Patrick Harris) Austria 0
The US got off the mark in the competition but were unable to get the three-goal they needed to boost themselves off the foot of the Group A table, their 1-0 win leaving Austria third in the standings.

Patrick Harris created and scored their 44th minute winner, earning the penalty corner with a surge into the circle and duly drove home a low drag-flick.

With the European side needing a win to move second in the group and the Americans needing more goals to affect their standing, the closing phases were tough and tetchy with plenty of cards dished out.

Michael Korper went closest to a leveller, his drag-flick denied by a combination of post and defensive post-man 15 minutes from time. Another couple of chances bounced around the front of Tom Sheridan’s goal but none were snapped up in spite of the Americans being reduced to nine men and conceding late penalty corners. The result confirmed the Czech Republic as group runners-up with China top.

Group A: China 1 (Long Sun) Czech Republic 1 (Tomas Prochazka)
China denied a late Czech Republic charge to hold on and guarantee top spot in Group A, lining up a more than likely tie with the USA in Thursday’s quarter-final.

They held out a two penalty corners on the final hooter. Both were kept out with just four defenders in the goal as the experimental rule came into effect whereby a player breaking the line is sent to the halfway and not replaced.

But without key striker Tomas Prochazka, binned for dissent, the Czechs were unable to find a way through Yongbo Yin’s defences. In truth, it would have been a major steal. China dominated throughout drawing several brilliant saves from Tomas Hanus, standing in for the experienced Filip Neusser.

He was unable to deny a neatly worked Long Sun diving corner deflection. China, though, were unable to put the game to bed despite Yang Dong, Zhixin Sun and Fenghui Lu’s best efforts.

And 15 minutes from time, the Czechs snatched a corner from which Prochazka took a big hit from the Chinese runner but still managed to plant the ball down the middle of the goal for 1-1.

Final Group A standings: 1. China 7pts (+4) 2. Czech Republic 4pts (0) 3. Austria 3pts (-1) 4. USA 3pts (-3)


Thursday’s quarter-final draw (Irish time): China vs Scotland, 9am; France vs Austria, 11.30am; Czech Republic vs Russia, 2pm; Ireland vs USA, 4.30pm

Below are the Irish goals from days one and two, provided by Tristan Seaton-Stedham. You can see all of the rest of the goals by going to Tristan’s Youtube page here.

Today’s photos from Stanislas Brochier will be uploaded to this site during the course of the day

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