EuroHockey League KO16 Pembroke 0 Rot-Weiss Koln 3 (Philipp Zeller, Benji Wess, Christopher Zeller)
When a goalkeeper receives a man-of-the-match award in a 3-0 loss, it gives a measure of a game’s flow. David Harte pulled off in excess of 15 top drawer saves but Pembroke were always on the back foot against one the EHL favourites, Rot-Weiss Koln, and bow out of the competition at the KO16 stage.
In stereotypically German fashion, they showed a ruthless efficiency limiting the Irish champions to just a single shot – a Mick O’Connor reverse-stick effort – as they always looked in control of the fixture, though they never truly cut loose.
Tournament top scorer Christopher Zeller was left frustrated by Harte, five of his drag-flicks and two clear shots bounced away by the towering net-minder and, while he did net a 68th minute penalty stroke, his marshalling was a cause for positivity with Ronan Gormley a top performer.
Indeed, Pembroke started in lively enough fashion. Justin Sherriff created the first corner penetration while Craig Fulton was lively down the right wing for two further circle incursions.
But Koln were masterful in defending the feet as pull-backs found their way to red sticks.
They were content to play half-court, handing Pembroke plenty of ball inside their own territory before pouncing from their first corner when Benji Wess’ clever touch caught Conor Harte flat-footed.
Christopher Zeller’s piledriver was kept out, as was the rebound but a clever lay-back to Philipp Zeller in the third phase was drilled home from the pusher-out zone, as the Pembroke defensive unit scrambled.
Again, Koln sat back and awaited their prey to leave their comfort zone. It created a few half-openings; Alan Sothern’s clever lay-off just eluding Paddy Conlon while O’Connor’s trademark reverse whizzed through a dangerous area but with no one was available to slide in.
Real goal-mouth panic, though, was confined to the Dubliner’s circle. Tibor Weissenborn’s baseline run was almost calamitously turned goalward by a combination of Fulton’s foot and stick, Constantin Axer deflected inches wide from Paul Kupper’s bash and Adam Pritchard cleared one slow-roller off the line to keep the score to 1-0 at the big break with the heaven’s opening.
And Koln grabbed the insurance goal a four minutes into the second half when Benji Wess did brilliantly to slide in ahead of Tim Lewis to a loose ball after Jan-Marco Montag wreaked havoc down the right flank.
The younger Wess brother reacted fastest to a popped ball down the end-line to sweep high past the emerging David Harte from close to the baseline.
A Christopher Zeller drive and strike could have sealed the tie a minute later as could his next corner strike. Each time, though, Harte was equal to it as the Germans truly turned the screw.
He also picked off a Montag drag and excellent pair of saves at the edge of the circle as, first, Benji Wess and then Weissenborn ran free in the circle.
A couple more corner saves greeted his announcement as player-of-the-match before Pembroke had a shout for a corner turned away along with a video referral as no captain’s armband was currently on the pitch.
And in the aftermath of those complaints, Koln used their referral to get a corner upgraded to a penalty stroke in the subsequent break-out which Christopher Zeller duly converted.
Pembroke: David Harte, Tim Lewis, Alan Giles, Craig Fulton, Ronan Gormley, Maurice Elliott, Andy McConnell, Justin Sherriff, Adam Pritchard, Alan Sothern Subs: Gordon Elliott, Paddy Conlon, Mick O’Connor, Patrick Good, Ken Treacy
Rot-Weiss Koln: Max Weinhold, Timo Wess, Benjamin Wess, Christopher Zeller, Tobias Hauke, Jan-Marco Montag, Philipp Zeller, Tibor Weissenborn, Paul Kupper, Constantin Axer, Philipp Brandess Subs: Marcel Meurer, Martin Chorus, Fabian Bauwens, Hendrik Scharzer, Florentin von Schmidt