Saturday, August 8, 2009

EuroHockey Trophy: Relegation pool

Italy 2 (Jacopo Lunetta, Massimo Lanzano) Switzerland 1 (Fabian Wullschegler)
Italy kept their survival hopes alive as they beat already relegated Switzerland 2-1, condemning their Alpine neighbours to eighth place in the competition.

Despite dominating for long periods, the Italians made hard work of victory, scoring just one of their nine penalty corners. They started in determined fashion, Agustin Nunez stinging Patrick Egloff’s twice with powerful reverse-stick efforts.

Andrin Rickli’s volleyed snap-shot in the 12th minute was the sole Swiss to the near constant barrage and Italy eventually took the lead in the 27th minute when skipper Jacopo Lunetta batted in a corner rebound.

The second half followed a similar pattern. Nunez saw two more effort saved while Michele Cirina’s thunderbolt was also dealt with Egloff. Massimo Lanzano, though, made the game safe with nine minutes remaining, swivelling well on a bouncing ball to crash home.

Fabian Wullschleger pulled one back with seven seconds to go but scant consolation for the Swiss. Italy, meanwhile, must now hope Scotland beat Italy by two goals or more.

Scotland 2 (Iain Scholefield, Mark Ralph) Belarus 1 (Vitali Zyshchyk)
In the end , Scotland and Belarus got the mutually beneficially result that saw the former take the fifth World Cup qualifying place and the latter keep their place in the second tier of European competition on goal difference.

The Belarussians enjoyed slightly the better opening 25 minutes but saw two corners deflected wide by the Scottish defence and found all their good work undone when Iain Scholefield burst down the right wing.

His original cross was cut out by Yauhen Cherapanau but the defender dallied and Scholefield nipped in to swipe the ball to the net for a 28th minute lead.

Mark Ralph rebounded a penalty corner for 2-0 three minutes later and Belarus were on the verge of relegation. And the Scots started the second half in rude form winning a pair of corners.

But they were stung on the break in the 43rd minute. Ihar Zyshchyk’s superb run was halted by Ali McGregor but Vitali Zyshchyk followed up to crash into the netting from close-range.

Thereafter, only Graham Dunlop’s excellent cover tackle on Vitali Zyshchyk registered as a highlight as neither side was able to upset the status quo. Italy, as a result, join Switzerland in relegation to the third tier of European competition.

Relegation standings: 1. Scotland 9pts (+7) 2. Belarus 4pts (0) 3. Italy 4pts (-1) 4. Switzerland 0pts (-6)

* For more pictures from the relegation games, click here

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