Tuesday, August 4, 2009

EuroHockey Nations: Day four round-up

Pool A: Italy 5 (Massimo Lanzano 3, Agustin Nunez, Federico Ardito) Belarus 5 (Ivan Kisliavich, Ihar Zyshchyk 2, Ihar Litouchanka, Aliaksandr Hancharou)
Belarus and Italy will each take a point with them into the relegation pool after they played out an incredible 5-5 draw.

After 15 chanceless minutes, one could scarcely have predicted the goalfest that was to ensue. But once Ivan Kisliavich scored from a 17th minute penalty corner, the floodgates opened irreparably.

Federico Ardito’s beautiful, baseline reverse and Massimo Lanzano’s first of three set-piece goals of the game swapped the lead around. But Vitali Zyshchyk’s simple tap-in on the stroke of half-time left the game level at 2-2.

And Belarus retook the lead in the 38th minute when Ihar Zyshchyk was the only player to take up a well-played advantage, snapping up a loose ball with a full length dive.

Lanzano’s stroke put Italy back on terms before Ihar Litouchanka banged in a superb auto-pass and reverse. Reduced to 10 men, Italy managed to the tie the game up for a fourth time from Agustin Nunez’ improvised corner. Lanzano dragged home for 5-4 with 17 minutes left.

And the Italians seemed to have weathered the storm - even with Michele Cirina spending 10 minutes in the sin-bin - but, restored to the full complement, Aliaksandr Hancharou snuck in three minutes from time for 5-5.

Pool B: Switzerland 1 (Andrin Rickli) Wales 1 (Rhys Joyce)
The Welsh crowd was left with their fingernails gnashed to the bone but ultimately toasted a semi-final place at the North Wales stadium as Rhys Joyce’s 63rd minute penalty stroke ensured a 1-1 draw against a gutsy Swiss rear-guard effort.

But Switzerland hit the front when Andrin Rickli - a thorn throughout as the high front-man - got on the end of a goal-mouth scramble in the 21st minute from one of just a handful of Swiss circle penetrations.

Five yellow cards were meted out as Wales dominated, Rick Gay hitting the inside of the post, but the leveller which would guarantee passage into the semi-finals proved elusive until the 63rd minute.

Andy Cornick outfoxed the outstanding Patrick Egloff to draw a penalty stroke and Joyce held his nerve to make it 1-1. A couple of edgey moments in defence ensued - even with Switzerland down to nine men - especially from a 70th minute corner - but progression achieved nonetheless.

Scotland 2 (Kenny Bain, Mark Ralph) Czech Republic 2 (Jakub Kyndal 2)
Drama reigned in the final pool game as the Czech Republic came from 2-0 down to draw with Scotland and take the point they required to advance to the semi-finals.

But that tells only half the story. The Scots though they had a third goal in the 54th minute when Niall Stott hit a vicious shot from the top of the circle.

He celebrated as if he had scored but umpire Requena signalled for a free out, stating the ball had gone wide.

The Czechs promptly went the length of the pitch with Jakub Kyndal finishing off the move to level the game at 2-2.

The Czechs duly repelled wave after wave of Scottish attack to secure the precious point they needed.

Where they finish in the group, though, remains up in the air as they finish dead-level on points, goal difference, goals scored and goals conceded with Wales. A penalty stroke competition will decide who takes top spot on Wednesday morning.

The issue could be further complicated, however, pending a Scottish appeal over Stott’s controversial shot.

Earlier in the game, Scotland built up a 2-0 lead via Kenny Bain’s superb aerial and Mark Ralph’s drag-flick in the first half.

They had plenty of chances to lengthen the lead but were stung ten minutes into the second half when Kyndal got his first of the day.

Pool B standings: 1= Wales 5pts (+2) 1= Czech Republic 5pts (+2) 3. Scotland 4pts (+2) 4. Switzerland 1pt (-6)
* For more of Fidopics photos from the day's action, click here for Belarus vs Italy and here for Switzerland vs Wales. For a couple of The Hook's own pics of Scotland vs Czech Republic, click here.

No comments: