Four-star Spain ease past lack-lustre Irish men

TriFinance EuroHockey Championships
Men’s Pool C
Spain 4 (X Lleonart, G Dabanch, E Tubau, A Mir) Ireland 0

For a second successive day, Spain got the better of an Irish hockey team to put their survival in the top tier of European competition in danger.

The men were picked apart 4-0 at a scorching Boom, Belgium this afternoon with two goals coming in each half. It leaves Ireland in the relegation places behind Spain and Poland, meaning they will probably need to beat the already demoted Czech Republic on Sunday morning (10am Irish time) to survive.

EuroHockey 2013Ireland started brightly, winning the first corner of the game after Sergi Enrique missed a bobbling ball in the circle. While the corner was mistrapped, the ball was worked back into the circle for Mikey Watt to volley home, albeit via his arm and the goal was chalked off on review.

Xavi Lleonart got the Spaniards with a sharp rebound in the seventh minute soon after, following up his own run which had played in Alex Casasayas. David Harte saved well at this feet but the ball popped up perfectly for the young winger to finish off.

Ireland were enjoying decent passages of possession but Spain, past masters at the deep defence, limited their openings while they took their chances at the far end.

Roc Oliva won his side’s first corner from which Gabriel Dabanch’s drag-flick squeezed through the Irish defences to make it 2-0 in the 19th minute.

Chris Cargo’s air-shot and a couple of Shane O’Donoghue drags were dealt with, putting two in it at the break. But once Edi Tubau flicked in another corner a minute into the second period from a switch move there was no comeback like 2011 in Monchengladbach.

Indeed, Ireland showed a frustrated demeanour with three sin-binnings accruing. Andres Mir closed out the win with 17 minutes to go when left unmarked in the circle, slotting home to the right corner and Irish coach Andrew Meredith said that his side were lucky that four was the limit of the damage.

He found the low-key performance difficult to understand following three high intensity performances in the initial group phase of the competition, drawing with world number four side England and coming within a goal of doing likewise against Olympic silver medalists the Netherlands.

He suggested the emotional drain of coming so close to reaching a first ever semi-final, missing out by a single goal on goal difference on Wednesday, took its toll.

EuroHockey 2013“We were outplayed. In the second half, it was purely mental and we need to identify how that happened,” he said.

He added that if his young side had more experience, they could have been able to bounce back quicker and avoid this kind of outcome.

“Sport is a funny thing. People deal with disappointment in different ways. We’ve had a really good phase in this tournament but what it does come down is, while the Spanish don’t have a lot of money, they have more than us.

“It comes down to funding and we had money for an extra 15 games a year, we would be in a different situation and have a lot more experience and fellas could have handled it a bit different.”

It puts Spain on six points and, with a healthy goal difference in their favour, only a heavy defeat to Poland can see them relegated. Ireland, meanwhile, will find out their final equation early on Sunday morning but a win over the Czechs is probably a must.

** Photos courtesy of Frank Uijlenbroek/IHA, for more click here

** To read the live blog from Ireland vs Spain, click here

Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, R Gormley, M Watt, C Cargo, E Magee, P Caruth, B McCandless, C Harte, P Brown, S O’Donoghue
Subs: J Bell, S Cole, K Shimmins, M Darling, K Good, S Loughrey, D Fitzgerald
Spain: Q Cortes, S Enrique, R Romeu, R Alegre, X Lleonart, A Mir, M Salles, A Casasayas, M Terraza, D Alegre, P Quemada
Subs: B Perez-Pla, M Delas, V Ruiz, E Tubau, R Oliva, M Fernandez

Irish coach Andrew Meredith:
“We started off relatively well with a good structure and guys did their defensive jobs. Then, the Spanish stayed in it, made it difficult for us to make penetrations even though we had quite a lot of ball possession in the first 20 minutes.

“Second half, it was purely the mental aspect that we need to look at identify and see why that happened. Look, we weren’t good enough and in the end, it ended 4-0.”

EuroHockey 2013On the 30 degree pitch-side temperatures: “Clearly the heat is not our friend. That’s not an excuse, it’s just a fact. The guys worked hard but there were concentration errors. We have to look at that.”

On the difference in level of performance between this game and the group phase: “We’ve had a really good phase in this tournament but what it does come down is, while the Spanish don’t have a lot of money, they have more than us. It comes down to funding and we had money for an extra 15 games a year, we would be in a different situation and have a lot more experience and fellas could have handled it a bit different.”

Irish captain John Jackson on how the side will bounce back: “It actually should be easy to pick ourselves up after that. Today’s disappointment should set us in the right frame of mind to do a job on Sunday. We’re lucky we have the rest day to pinpoint exactly what needs to be done tactically and internally.

Czech Republic 1 (S Bernatek) Poland 4 (B Zywiczka, P Kozlowski, D Rachwalski, K Makowski)
Poland gave themselves a chance of avoiding relegation back to the second tier of the TriFinance EuroHockey Championships as their four-star first half performance saw off the Czech Republic.

They built a healthy lead and while the Czechs improved after half-time, it was too little too late. Bartosz Zywiczka got his side up and running with a great run and strike from the edge of the circle before Piotr Kozlowski extended the margin in the 21st minute with a devilish corner strike.

Dariusz Rachwalski netted soon after Krystian Makowski’s close range shot was saved into hit path. Makowski then applied an accurate push for a 4-0 lead at half-time.

Stepan Bernatek did get one back for the Czech Republic with eight minutes to go but it was little more than a consolation goal. It means the Czechs return to the second tier while Poland face a game against Spain on Sunday morning that will decide their fate.

Men’s TriFinance EuroHockey Championships
Pool C results:
Ireland 0 Spain 4 (X Lleonart, G Dabanch, E Tubau, A Mir); Czech Republic 1 Poland 4
Standings: 1. Spain 6pts (+9) 2. Poland 3pts (+1) 3. Ireland 3pts (-2) 4. Czech Republic 0pts (-8)

Fixtures (Irish time)
Ireland vs Czech Republic, 10am; Poland vs Spain, 8am

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