Saturday, July 11, 2009

Champion's Challenge II: Ireland reach final - semi-final reports

Ireland 2 (John Jermyn , David Hobbs) Malaysia 1 (Tengku Tajuddin)
Ireland held out for a famous victory at Belfield this afternoon amid the pouring rain, edging out a lively Malaysia to set up a revenge mission in tomorrow’s final against Poland.

They were made to live on their nerves, though, as a corner conceded 15 seconds from time could have proved a costly error.

David Harte, though, stood tall and when the rebound did not fall Tengku Tajuddin’s way, Ireland celebrated wildly with each player joining the embrace before saluting the sizable crowd in the grandstand.

It was a game of serious swings in momentum as first Malaysia and latterly Ireland enjoyed long periods of dominance. John Jermyn once again got Ireland off to the perfect start, firing his sixth goal of the tournament with a low drag in the fourth minute.

But the Asian side controlled possession and Ireland’s deep press played into the Malaysian’s hands, given their superior skills in tight situations.

Harte did well to smother Ismail Abu’s effort while Tajuddin’s beautiful ball was deflected onto the post by Selvaraju Sandrakasi. But they did not have to wait long for their just reward when Tengku pounced on a corner rebound - following Amin Rahim’s drag - to finish adroitly from three yards midway through the half.

During this period, Eugene Magee was providing a decent outlet and his exchange with Mitch Darling showed an Irish threat still existed. Jermyn’s next corner drew a top save from Kumar Subramaniam as well as denying Graham Shaw in the aftermath.

Indeed, Ireland almost took the lead just three seconds before the half-time hooter when Stephen Butler’s raking overhead found the unlikely target of Ronan Gormley as the furthest man forward but the right-back flashed across the goal.

And the hosts took that momentum into the second period, winning their third corner inside 50 seconds of the turnaround, Mikey Watt reversed while Tim Lewis - Ireland’s stand-out defender in the tournament to date - produced an amazing 70-metre pass to play in Magee.

John Jermyn’s yellow card - for an off-the-ball barge on Sukri Abd Mutalib - barely broke their stride. On his return to the field, he would later receive a green card for not retreating.

Tajuddin did pop one past Harte on the end-line but Joe Brennan cleared the raised ball well to safety before Magee provided the game’s best solo action; racing 40-metres in between five defenders to win a corner. From it, Ireland got the crucial score, using a first switch routine of the competition.

Butler’s one-two with Magee created space at the flick-spot but his drag was saved. Lewis’ follow-up hit the post but the third phase fell to David Hobbs to slide under Subramaniam.

The volume of rain saw numerous slips and misjudgements, adding to the excitement of the game. A massive overhead created havoc between Johnny Jackson and David Harte, bouncing over the goalkeeper’s head at the top of the circle.

Sandrakasi, though, was not tall enough to guide the ball into the net as he snuck in around the back. And Ireland continued to live on their wits as they sank back deeper and deeper, giving away cheap possession with endless overheads.

It was always likely to give up one major chance for the Malaysians to equalise and it came with 15 seconds on the scoreboard when Joe Brennan was penalised wide on the right flank.

But Harte filled his goal well and Paul Revington had victory in the most meaningful match of his embryonic career as Irish national coach.

* For more of Adrian Boehm's excellent photos from Ireland vs Malaysia, click here

Poland 3 (Marcin Strykowski, Szymon Oszjczyk, Tomasz Duktiewicz) France 1 (Freddie Soyez)
Poland became the first semi-finalist after their counter-attack game proved too much for France at Belfield this afternoon.

The French had started the strongest, taking the lead through Freddie Soyez’ drag-flick. But two beautifully conceived Polish goals before half-time switched the lead.

Marcin Strykowski got the first response in the tenth minute, profiting from some top skills down the left wing to squeeze the ball past Max Wilson.

And the turnaround continued with a brilliant move, completed with Tomasz Choczaj’s superb in to out run creating the space for Szymon Oszjczyk to tap in.

Choczaj proved a livewire throughout and was unlucky to be denied in the preceding play to the second goal with a diving reverse and hit the sideboard with the first shot of the second half.

Poland’s speedy attacks continued to bear fruit - especially when Lucas Sevestre was sin-binned - with Slawomir Choczaj pulling across the goal from yet another break-out. Their reward came in the 53rd minute from their second corner when Tomasz Duktiewicz powered a drag-flick through Wilson.

With a healthy lead in tact, the wheels fell off somewhat with both Miroslaw Juszczak and Duktiewicz put in the bin for over-zealous tackles in the 58th minute.

But France were unable to take advantage, with Arkadiusz Matuszak pulling off a sensational double-save as Poland played out the match in untidy but effective fashion.

* For more of Adrian Boehm's pictures from Poland vs France, click here

1 comment:

Jugjet Singh said...

Tq for the excellent coverage, best of luck, better if mas-ire met in the final though...