Speers double and Jacob cracker see Ireland battle past Belarus

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TriFinance EuroHockey Championships Women’s Group A
Ireland 3 (A Speers 2, L Jacob) Belarus 2 (V Shyntar, N Syrayezhka)

Alex Speers played a captain’s role as her pair of goals helped Ireland cling on for a 3-2 win over Belarus, a result that will allow Darren Smith’s side a straight shot at a semi-final berth.

Despite a rough 6-0 loss to the Netherlands on Saturday in their opening tie, Ireland are very much alive in the pool as a result of the Belarussian win.

EuroHockey 2013Indeed, should they repeat the trick against Belgium on Tuesday evening in Boom, a first ever final four berth will be assured.

Speers scored the only goal of the first half when she profited from an excellent ball in to Shirley McCay which Anna O’Flanagan did well to hold off the goalkeeper and lay into the striker’s path. She finished with a nice first time shot.

From there, Ireland looked set to push on as Belarus struggled with their outletting while Gillian Pinder and Lisa Jacob’s direct running caused plenty of problems.

It should have been two when O’Flanagan battled down the right wing but her cross skipped passed the intentions of Nicci Daly.

Belarus came out with a much more physical approach in the second period and it began to pay dividends, breaking up further the mixed rhythm of the game.

Volha Shyntar equalised during a good Belarus period of play, a smartly taken finish from close range, latching on to a bouncing ball in the 45th minute.

Parity did not last long, though, as Speers reasserted the lead from close range, popping in after O’Flanagan’s shot hit the post. That goal came just a few moments after Hanna Zabrotskaya had taken a yellow for a robust tackle.

But the game was far from won as Shyntar’s reverse needed saving from Emma Gray while Audrey O’Flynn’s intervention was necessary to deny Yuliya Mikheichyk.

EuroHockey 2013However, victory was much closer when Nikki Symmons’ long ball found Lisa Jacob all alone in the circle. She dodged right of the goalkeeper and swept in for a coolly taken goal.

Nastasia Syrayezhka volleyed in another sharp chance with four minutes to go to make it 3-2 but it was too late to grab a result in spite of Shirley McCay taking a yellow card in the closing stages.

It earned a modicum of revenge for last March’s World League Round Two loss to the same opposition and Ireland will hope to get another monkey off their back against the hosting Belgians.

They fell 2-0 to the Netherlands in the day’s late game, leaving the two sides on three points with Belgium requiring a draw to advance but an Irish win on Tuesday will see them break new ground.

Coach Darren Smith’s view of the game: “The match was relatively similar to the one we had in Valencia. It was just we managed to put in a few goals and beat them. It was a little tentative and lacking in flow and if you can’t get that, it will be difficult to get through Belarus. Happy to get the three points and looking forward to Tuesday.

“When you lack fluidity, it brings that gritty, combative side of hockey that you sometimes end up with. There was plenty of clashing and physical contact. We could have been tidier and we do talk about the quality of our tackling.

On the upcoming Belgium game: “They are a physical team. You look at the size of their back five, three defenders and two central midfielders and there is a fair amount of physicality and it would surprise me if there is a lot of toughness on Tuesday.”

Alex Speers on the game: “We made things difficult for ourselves and could have made it a lot easier. It was a must win game, though, and we’re happy to move on from here.

Megan Frazer on playing Belgium next: “I’m sure Tuesday will be a full house and that will be exciting to play against their extra player in the crowd.”

EuroHockey 2013** To read the Live Blog from the game, click here

** Photos courtesy of Frank Uijlenbroek/IHA

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

Belarus: M Navitskaya, H Zabrotskaya, M Halinouskaya, N Stsifutkina, R Batura, V Shyntar, Y Mikheichyk, N Silitskaya, N Syrayezhka, K Kulinkovich, K Kibkova
Subs: V Khamko, S Bahushevich, R Sycheuskaya, H Dakutovich, V Mikanovich

Netherlands 2 (Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel, Roos Drost) Belgium 0
Quick-fire goals in the tenth and 11th minutes were all that separated the world number one side the Netherlands from their Belgian hosts as Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel and Roose Drost helped the Dutch land their second win in two days.

They got off to a great start as Eva de Goede’s shot was well saved by Aisling d’Hooghe but fell perfectly for Dirkse van den Heuvel to score on the rebound.

Soon after, Drost ran straight through the middle of the Belgian defence with no one able to slow her progress. She slipped the ball underneath the goalkeeper from close range to give the Dutch a 2-0 lead.

But the Belgians fought back well, winning a number of penalty corners while Jill Boon also had a couple of good chances. They could not convert, however, and so the Netherlands remained in control of the game into the second half.

Drost was proving a handful again while Belgium had their moments but no further goals means that the Dutch are into the semi-finals of the competition. For the hosts, they play Ireland on Tuesday knowing that a draw will be good enough to advance to the final four of the competition for the very first time.

Standings: 1. Netherlands 6pts (+8) 2. Belgium 3pts (+2) 3. Ireland 3pts (-5) 4. Belarus 0pts (-5)
Tuesday, August 20: Ireland vs Belgium, 5pm; Netherlands vs Belarus, 7pm

Group B
Germany 2 (Franzisca Hauke 2) England 1 (Giselle Ansley)

Franzisca Hauke’s pair of goals saw Germany land their second win of the TriFinance EuroHockey Championships and close in on a semi-final spot with England now facing a key game with Scotland on Tuesday.

Germany hit the front when Lena Jacobi burst forward from right back and picked out a lovely pass on the run to Franzisca Hauke applied a deft touch to lift the ball over Maddie Hinch.

But just 13 seconds before the half-time break, Giselle Ansley rounded onto a loose ball in the circle created by a bouncing Alex Danson cross. The youngster slapped her shot high past Kim Platten.

Hauke restored the lead, though, in the 50th minute when Hannah Kruger pushed a penalty corner just to the right of goal where Hauke slid in from close range.

EuroHockey 2013England had a number of chances to level the game, first when Julia Muller was forced to save an effort off the line and then when Ashleigh Ball struck into the backboard. A goal was initially awarded before a video review showed the ball hit her back-stick.

Spain 2 (Maria Gomez 2) Scotland 1 (Nikki Kidd)
Maria Gomez’ pair of goals helped Spain reignite their semi-final hopes as they got the better of Scotland on day two of the women’s TriFinance EuroHockey Championships in Boom.

Her pair of goals sandwiched an effort by Nikki Kidd to record Spain’s first win of the campaign while Scotland remain without a point from two outings.

Gomez gave the Spanish an incredible start as she scored with barely 15 seconds of the clock. She swung her stick first time at a diagonal ball into the circle and got the perfect connection with the ball to beat Amy Gibson.

Kidd equalised in the ninth minute from her side’s first penalty corner but, somewhat against the run of play, Gomez was again on hand to tip in from close range in the 27th minute.

And that was the way it remained throughout a lively second half in which Sam Judge twice went close while Becky Merchant did well to save a Carlota Petchame effort off the line.

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

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