Beatty inspires strong Irish comeback but frustrations remain over first half show

Women’s Champions Challenge I
Ireland 2 (E Beatty 2) Spain 2 (A Magaz, L Riera)

Emily Beatty’s double in the closing eight minutes earned Ireland a second successive 2-2 draw at the Champions Challenge I in Glasgow this evening, tying with Spain.

Ireland celebrate Emily Beatty's equaliser Pic: Asdrubal Diaz

Ireland celebrate Emily Beatty’s equaliser Pic: Asdrubal Diaz

While the comeback was mighty and produced a deserved result, there was plenty of frustration at the paucity of the first half as the strength of Ireland’s second half show laid bare what could have been against a Spanish side that were there for the taking.

Cliodhna Sargent’s post match interview summed it up neatly.”The first half was not up to where we hoped to be playing at,” she said. “We need to start the way we finished; it can’t just be a one-half performance.

Having twice come from behind against South Africa on Sunday, they were once again playing catch-up as goals from Alicia Magaz and Lola Riera had Ireland 2-0 down in 13 minutes.

Katie Mullan had deflected the first clear chance over the bar from a right wing cross but Ireland were behind in straight-forward fashion on nine minutes. Gigi Oliva laid the ball back to Riera from a free-in and, with precious little pressure exerted, the powerful sweeper picked a line through the circle from which Magaz applied a stick to redirect high.

Instinctively, Emma Gray got a strong hand to the pact shot but it still had enough on it to spin in.

Soon after, Riera made it 2-0 with a direct drag-flick past Gray’s left hand and she almost made it three but for a great Sargent stop on the line. Ireland were inert for the most part, their slow build-up from the back allowing Spain to defensively organise and they drew little fruit beyond the 25.

From their 30th minute corner, injector Chloe Watkins did pop in the net but, in an odd incident the ball had bounced off the outside of the goal and quickly back into play from Audrey O’Flynn’s drag-flick. It was rightly ruled out, leaving Darren Smith and Graham Shaw’s side – who, for the second game running was named as coach – 2-0 down.

But Ireland reduced the Spanish to a non-entity in a dominant second half performance with Sargent citing a change in their out-letting philosophy to move the Spanish defence around much more, changing their base to build attacks.

Maria Lopez de Eguilaz got a smart stick to intercept Emma Smyth’s cross ahead of Nikki Evans while two stonewall corner decisions went unwhistled. Mullan’s reverse cross to Gillian Pinder was also well saved by the Spanish goalkeeper from point blank range.

Katie Mullan creates a good chance for Gillian Pinder with a left wing cross Pic: Asdrubal Diaz

Katie Mullan creates a good chance for Gillian Pinder with a left wing cross Pic: Asdrubal Diaz

Ireland eventually got their rewards despite few decisions going their way. Beatty broke through with a penalty corner rebound from Michelle Harvey’s corner slap. It had initially fallen onto a Spanish body on the goal line but the UCD winger was not about to wait for a stroke and bundled it over the line in the 62nd minute.

Four minutes later, it was level. Her second was heavily deflected after Shirley McCay’s crossfield ball picked her out unmarked on the left. She admitted afterwards it was an attempted cross but a double deflection left the otherwise impressive Lopez de Eguilaz stranded.

“It was frantic,” Beatty said. “If i’m honest it was actually a pass, but it hit a Spanish player’s leg and deflected into the goal. After that I had this tremendous burst of energy, but then the coach called me and I had to go and sit on the bench. It was fantastic though.”

Two late chances almost saw Ireland steal the result while Spain won a last minute corner from a rare break-out. Anna O’Flanagan charged it down to ensure the draw remained.

Reflecting on the tie, Beatty added: “The coach just reminded us that we had beaten Spain in a test series earlier this year. He said we were playing badly and we had to step it up if we were to stand a chance. He said: ‘This is rubbish, why aren’t you playing like you did in yesterday’s game against South Africa (2-2)?'”

Ireland enjoy a rest day on Tuesday before facing the USA in their final group game needing a win to breach the top two in the pool and secure a potentially easier quarter-final date. The Americans lost to table-toppers South Africa 2-1.

Ireland: E Gray, C Sargent, E Smyth, S McCay, M Frazer, N Carroll, A O’Flynn, C Watkins, N Daly, A O’Flanagan, K Dillon
Subs: M Harvey, N Evans, K Mullan, G Pinder, A Meeke, E Beatty, A McFerran

Spain: M Lopez de Equilaz, R Ybarra, R Gutierrez Sierra, J Pons, C Petchame, M Lopez, C Guinea, M Tost, L Riera, P Marana, M Gomez
Subs: C Salavtella, B Bonastre, A Magaz, O Pineiro, B Perez, G Oliva, M Ruiz

Women’s Champions Challenge I, Pool B results: Ireland 2 (E Beatty 2) Spain 2 (A Magaz, L Riera); South Africa 2 USA 1
Standings: 1. South Africa 4pts (+1) 2. USA 3pts (+1) 3. Ireland 2pts (0) 4. Spain 1pt (-2)

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