Saturday, May 1, 2010

Ireland bounce back to conquer Chile

World Cup Qualifiers - Day Six
Ireland 3 (Megan Frazer, Cliodhna Sargent, Nikki Symmons) Chile 0

Ireland produced a rousing first half performance, bouncing back from a difficult opening two fixtures in Santiago, beating hosts Chile 3-0 this afternoon to keep alive hopes of taking a bronze medal.

The performance was a world apart from their midweek fixtures against Malaysia and Scotland and, while they endured a few nervy moments in the opening stanzas, Ireland found an attacking groove early on, finding plenty of space for runners.

Emma Smyth got on the end of a decent move early on, her shot bouncing across goal before Megan Frazer scored her first international goal in the 11th minute when she shocked great intuition to touch Cliodhna Sargent's bobbling crash ball high past Claudia Schuller.

The University of Maryland student reacted quickest to a miscued cross from Bridget Cleland, stretching out her stick to leave the goalkeeper no chance.

And with their first goal of the tournament under their belts, the Irish looked visibly buoyed. Niamh Small, set free by Emma Clarke's quick thinking, cracked a superb ball which the diving Roisin Flinn deflected inches wide on the slide.

But the second goal was not long in arriving as Fernanda Rodriguez took a two-minute rest for dissent and with the extra player, Ireland found space. A fine deflected pass by Shirley McCay on halfway went to Alex Speers to find an outstretched leg and Cliodhna Sargent battered home a straight hit from the corner.

And a minute before the break, Nikki Symmons was the scorer of the third from the penalty spot. She was the profiteer after Lisa Jacob was hacked down by Daniela Infante in the circle to further raise the Irish mood.

The second half, played in blazing midday sunshine, was played at a much slower pace with Chile making most of the running but creating few clear-cut chances.

Daniela Caram mishit the best of them from five yards while the South Americans were unable to take advantage of a number of corners, bravely blocked before they reached the pads of Louisa Healy – in her first appearance of the tournament.

Speaking after the game, defender Bridget Cleland was delighted her side bounced back from defeats to Malaysia and Scotland.

“A real gutsy performance today after the last two. We came out to play a home team in front of a very large crowd and really raised our game for it to give us some confidence and self-belief going into a big game tomorrow against Australia.

“The difference was just a bit of belief and bit of flipping Irish pride today.

“It says a lot about a team that they can come out after two disappointing performances with a display like that. There’s a real sense of relief as well. We have a lot of self-belief and have trained really hard but, up until now, have not done ourselves justice. Today, we proved more to ourselves than anyone, that we are capable of doing well here.”

Ireland play world number five’s Australia tomorrow morning at 10am (3pm, Irish time) with third place a possible outcome, even if they were to lose by a narrow margin while a shock win would likely guarantee a medal-finish.

Scotland smashed Malaysia 5-0 in the day's opening game to move into second spot in the standings.

* For more of HockeyPress Argentina's photos from the Ireland vs Chile game today, click here. To read the live matchtracker from the game, click here.

Ireland: L Healy, M Harvey, C Sargent, E Clarke, B Cleland, L Jacob, A Speers, N Symmons, E Smyth, L Colvin, N Small
Subs: R Flinn, E Cregan (capt), S McCay, M Frazer, A O’Flynn

Chile: C Schuller, S Walbaum, J Villagra, P Infante, C Garcia, D Caram, M Urroz, D Infante, C Thiermann, M Wilson
Subs: F Rodriguez, M-J Fernandez, F Flores, C Caram, C Varas

Standings (played, points, goal difference): 1. Australia 3-9pts (+15) 2. Scotland 3-6pts (+6) 3. Ireland 3-3pts (-2) 4. Chile 3-3pts (-8) 5. Malaysia 4-3pts (-12)

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