Japan counter-strikes down Ireland

FIH Champions Challenge I
Ireland 0 Japan 3 (Kazuhiro Tsubouchi, Tomonori Ono, Shinji Kawauchi)
A second successive defeat leaves Ireland on collision course with a potential date with either Korea or Malaysia in the Champions Challenge quarter-finals.

It was a frustrating afternoon for Andrew Meredith’s side as they dominated for much of the tie but could not make any chance stick and were stung by Japan’s lightning quick breaks.

Mitch Darling, Timmy Cockram and Chris Cargo had gone close in the opening phases as goalkeeper Katsuya Takase set the tone for the day, keeping out 16 Irish shots on the day.

Ireland were undone 18 minutes in against the run of play, Kazuhiro Tsubouchi nabbed one from the Asian side’s first circle penetration, earning a corner.

Following their goal, Japan slowly found their way into the game better, but Ireland still dominated play for long stretches of time.

After the break, Ireland still remained the stronger side, but their attacks became more ragged as irritation started to creep in as their efforts yielded little danger. Halfway through the second half, a long ball into the circle set up Tomonori Ono who slid in to make it 2-0.

The balance started shifting, with Ireland losing momentum and committing more errors as Japan gained traction. Shortly after goal number two, Shinji Kawauchi finished off some great combination play up front after a quick break, off the back of an Irish corner, slapping the ball over the line for a three goal lead with six minutes on the clock.

Speaking afterwards about the game, Geoff McCabe said: Geoffrey McCabe: “Anybody who saw the match knows that there is not such a difference between Japan and Ireland. We created a lot of opportunities today in the circle but couldn’t score, and they scored in the counter-attack.

“From yesterday we improved our structure, we moved the ball better but we have to improve other things as well. We want to win every game and we played for it, but the tournament’s format suggests that you don’t have to win your first three games. The fourth game is the most important, so we have time to improve our skills for the next games.”

Andrew Meredith added: “We didn’t see the game through. We had eight corners and 28 circles penetrations and didn’t score. We have to be more clinical. If we don’t finish the opportunities that we create, then of course we don’t win games.”

It leaves Ireland in fourth place in their group, needing a win over South Africa on Tuesday to improve their status as the only side in the competition yet to get a point on the board.

Argentina beat the African side 2-1 with Willy Schickendantz scoring his first international goal in the second half for the winner.

In Group A, Malaysia are sitting pretty following a 4-2 win over Korea on day two and could well be Ireland’s opponent on Thursday, possibly meeting former coach Paul Revington and assistant Arul Anthoni.

Canada and Poland would initially appear as friendlier options in the final four after they drew 3-3 in the day’s other match.

Ireland: D Harte, C Harte, J Jackson, R Gormley, P Gleghorne, E Magee, G McCabe, A McConnell, P Caruth, M Watt, M Darling
Subs: C Cargo, T Cockram, J Jermyn, S O’Donoghue, S Loughrey, B McCandless

Japan: K Takase, K Kayukawa, T Ono, S Kawauchi, K Kawakami, K Tsubouchi, M Yamashita, K Nagasawa, M Hatakeyama, T Tachibana, Y Fukushiro
Subs: R Kawakami, K Ozawa, R Shibata, J Ijima

Pool B: Ireland 0 Japan 3 (Kazuhiro Tsubouchi, Tomonori Ono, Shinji Kawauchi); South Africa 1 (Matthew Guise-Brown) Argentina 2 (Gonzalo Peillat, Guillermo Schickendantz)
Standings: 1. Argentina 6pts (+2) 2. Japan 4pts (+3) 3. South Africa 1pt (-1) 4. Ireland 0pts (-4)

Pool A: Malaysia 4 Korea 2; Canada 3 Poland 3
Standings: 1. Malaysia 6pts (+6) 2. Korea 3pts (0) 3. Canada 1pt (-2) 4. Poland 1pt (-4)

FIH Champions Challenge, match schedule (all Irish time)
Tuesday, November 27, Group B: Ireland vs South Africa, 4.30pm; Japan vs Argentina, 7pm
Group A: Korea v Poland, 11.30am; Canada v Malaysia, 2pm

November 29: Quarter-finals
December 1: Semi-finals/classifications matches
December 2: Final/bronze medal match/classification matches

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