Belgium leave Ireland with familiar sinking feeling with clear-cut win

Women’s TriFinance EuroHockey Championships
Ireland 0 Belgium 3 (A Raes, A-S de Scheemaekere, E Coppey)

Belgium once again proved the Irish women’s nemesis as they abruptly ended their hopes of a first ever-European championships semi-final birth in Boom.

A trio of corner goals proved their undoing, Anouk Raes, Anne-Sophie de Scheemaekere and Erica Coppey all on the mark in what was a comprehensive dismantling of Darren Smith’s side.

A win would have seen Ireland break new ground and reach the semis but, as 15 months ago when Belgium denied Ireland an Olympic place in nearby Kontich, the composure of the hosts was at odds with the girls in green,

EuroHockey 2013That win came despite being the red panthers being ranked lower in the world at the time and their rise continues unabated as this result, indeed, puts them into their first European semi-final.

In the first half, Ireland were competitive as the ball skirted between the 25s for the most part. From an early corner, De Scheemaekere did draw a great save from Nikki Symmons off the line, using her cricket skills to good effect.

But chance creation was limited apart from an early corner that fizzed wide. Belgium, meanwhile, drilled home their second set piece after a rash tackle from Niamh Atcheler on Coppey. Raes was the scorer after the trap was not quite clean, eliminating the number one runner and beating Emma Gray’s dive.

On the counter, Ireland did have a couple of fleeting but solid openings to level against the run of play. First, Alex Speers could not get enough power to her shot after a smart move by Audrey O’Flynn in the moments before the break.

The second half, though, was dominated by Belgium who penned Ireland into their 22 and began to run up a high corner count. Gray was in sterling form while Audrey O’Flynn and Symmons somehow denied another corner switch move from sneaking in.

From Ireland’s first attack of the half, however, they did win a penalty stroke as Anna O’Flanagan’s persistence saw her sneak the ball through to Speers. She was virtually around Aisling D’Hooghe before she was felled.

EuroHockey 2013Lisa Jacob could only hit the post with her 51st minute effort from the penalty from the spot and Belgium were off the hook.

Belgium turned the screw thereafter. De Scheemaekere extended the lead to 2-0 with a direct strike in the 56th minute while Coppey followed up a rebound off Emma Gray’s pads to slip home the third goal with seven minutes to go.

It leaves Ireland to contest the relegation pool, facing Spain on Thursday afternoon before completing their competition early on Saturday morning against Scotland. From these games, they probably need one win from those two games to assure they remain in the top tier of European hockey.

Darren Smith’s assessment:
“Belgium are a tough team and getting better and better. Each year you see them play, you see them compete more and more. I thought today the score was a fair reflection of where we are at.

“There is work to do especially around convincing ourselves we can play the ball out from the back in midfield and attack with flair. At times, we got stuck thinking we couldn’t and it ended up being stuck at one end of the field.”

How do we change that psychology? “It’s a work in progress. The girls are so committed and train bloody hard, up early in the morning, on the turf and the running track constantly. Things take time and we are happy to persevere and get stuck in. Eventually things will start to come together.

EuroHockey 2013“I feel even though its 3-0 and it doesn’t feel good and the scoreline was fair, there was still some good hockey. You still saw really good Irish hockey players out there but it didn’t come together.”

Alex Speers on the relegation pool: “We have to dust ourselves off after today. These last three matches we played some good stuff but there are a lot of lessons to learn. We go into Scotland having played them numerous times over the summer so we know what to expect but they know what to expect from us but we’ll be confident.”

Shirley McCay on playing Belgium in key games: “it just so happens we keep playing them in tough fixtures when it means something. I suppose, today, its not about who you play but how you perform and we didn’t today.”

Belgian coach Pascal Kina: “Ireland today were more structured than we expected and it surprised us a little bit. It was a really good battle but we did dominate the game and I think it was a fair result. They had some moments on the counter-attack and, for sure, it could have been difficult afterewards [if they scored the stroke]. But I was sure we would be fitter than them in the last 15 minutes.”

** Pictures courtesy of Frank Uijlenbroek/IHA; for more pics from the game, click here

** To look back on the game via The Hook’s Live Blog, click here

Ireland: E Gray, A Speers, S McCay, M Frazer, L Jacob, N Symmons, A O’Flynn, C Watkins, N Atcheler, A O’Flanagan, G Pinder
Subs: C Sargent, E Smyth, N Small, N Carroll, N Daly, N Gray, G O’Flanagan

Belgium: A d’Hooghe, A-S de Scheemaekere, L Cavenaile, A Fobe, S de Groof, A Raes, L van Lindt, E Sinia, C de Vos, B Nelen, J Boon
Subs: J Vandermeiren, S Rummens, E Coppey, A Gerniers, L Versavel, M Beernaert, N Khouzam

Netherlands 7 (M Paumen 3, K Lammers 2, R Drost, S Mol) Belarus 0
Maartje Paumen’s hat trick meant that the Netherlands eased clear at the top of Group A, confirming they will play England in the semi-finals of the TriFinance EuroHockey Championships.

EuroHockey 2013She scored two penalty corners and one penalty stroke as they had too much power for Belarus and go through the initial group with three wins and three clean sheets.

Kim Lammers started the scoring in the 18th minute from Kitty van Male’s pass before Paumen made it 2-0 at half-time. Willemijn Bos created the next for Sabine Mol in the 37th minute before Mol opened the door for Roos Drost to make it 4-0. Bos set up Lammers for the fifth and Paumen added another two flicks to extend the margin to seven.

Group A standings: 1. Netherlands 9pts (+15) 2. Belgium 6pts (+5) 3. Ireland 3pts (-8) 4. Belarus 0pts (-12)

Group B
Spain 0 Germany 2 (E Hoffmann, L Haase)

Eileen Hoffmann’s slight touch four minutes from time and a scrambled last second goal gave Germany a third successive win to top Group B of the TriFinance EuroHockey Championships, advancing to the semi-final along with England to the final four.

Both goals came from corners. Hoffmann guided home Tina Bachmann’s sweep shot to win the tie in the 66th minute before Lydia Haase was credited with the second goal after the final whistle.

It ended a tightly fought game in Boom with a flourish. Germany shaded the general play and created most of the best chances the pick of which came early in the second half.

Maria Lopez de Eguilaz made a couple of great saves from Hannah Gablac and Marie Mavers to keep Spain, needing a win to have any chance of advancing, in contention. But Germany scored twice in the closing phases to carry the day.

England 2 (H MacLeod, S Quek) Scotland 1 (N Kidd)
England moved to the verge of qualification for the semi-finals of the TriFinance EuroHockey Championships in Boom, seeing off Scotland 2-1.

In a corner-filled first half, they had the edge with Kate Walsh drawing a brilliant goal-line save from Kareena Marshall. Hannah MacLeod gave her side the half-time lead when she got a delightful touch to a crash ball at the back post in the 34th minute.

After the break, Scotland got a just reward for their endeavours when Nikki Kidd dragged home a penalty corner after a review.

But parity lasted just a couple of minutes as Sam Quek pounced on a loose ball to pop home here first goal of the tournament in the 53rd which proved the ultimate winner.

The Scots ran up a series of corners in the second half while Nikki Kidd missed a last minute chance from Vikki Bunce’s cross to level, too, to see England over the line.

Standings: 1. Germany 9pts (+4) 2. England 6pts (+3) 3. Spain 3pts (-4) 4. Scotland 0pts (-3)

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