Women’s hockey World Cup Qualifiers – day four
Ireland 0 Scotland 2 (Alison Bell, Vikki Bunce)
Ireland’s mathematical chances of reaching the World Cup were ended this afternoon in Santiago and, while there was more life to their performance, a lack of real incision cost them dear against a zesty Scottish outfit.
The Scots showed fewer ill-effects of their short acclimatisation period – arriving 48 hours before the fixture – as, after a few early glitches, they began to boss proceedings.
Gene Muller’s side did show up stronger than on Wednesday but the key difference came in either circle when Scotland were always able to get a shot away while Ireland’s efforts were scrappy and scrambled and, bar a Niamh Small aerial, never stretched Abigail Walker.
With Laura Bartlett and Samantha Judge the instigators, Scotland earned the game’s first three corners.
None drew a save from Mary Goode and it was Small – with her first act of the tournament – who went closest in the first quarter, using one hand to brilliantly flick the ball past the last defender and shoot high, forcing Abigail Walker to palm over the endline.
Emily Maguire clattered the Scot’s third corner wide as did Kareena Marshall from their fourth effort after Emma Smyth’s excellent initial block.
After soaking up their share of pressure, though, Eimear Cregan became the game’s key player. Her three-dimensional skills created a pair of chances, breaking in from the left flank.
The first squeezed just away from Julia O’Halloran’s stick at close quarters. And Cregan drove forward to earn her side’s corner but Michelle Harvey was shut down before she could connect.
The game opened up further when Aimee Clark was sin-binned and Ireland produced a razor-sharp break through Nikki Symmons’ intuition and Emma Smyth’s pace played in Cregan to ghost back from the baseline and shoot, skewing across goal via a defender’s stick.
But Scotland got the perfect sucker-punch when the influential Judge drove through a couple of tackles and shot.
The rebound fell her way and she nudged it right of the goal where Alison Bell touched home for a half-time advantage.
Cregan earned another corner soon after the break but a mix-up meant no shot accrued for a second time, much to Muller’s frustration.
By contrast, Scotland had two bites of the cherry from their fifth corner, demanding some excellent goalkeeping from Mary Goode in the 53rd minute before also denying Ailsa Robertson and Aimee Clark.
Into the last five minutes and piling forward, Nikki Symmons raced up from sweeper but her cross did not make passed a packed Scottish defence.
And they broke at pace, creating a three-on-two which they used to perfection to eliminate the cover defence, laying up for Vikki Bunce to power home 2-0 from five yards.
Emma Clarke was sin-binned for dissent in the aftermath and it almost got worse for the Irish inside 60 seconds when Bartlett scrambled home but, after a lengthy discussion, the effort was ruled out. It was academic for Ireland but goal difference could be a factor later this week for the Scots.
Speaking about the fixture, coach Gene Muller was frustrated about his side’s inability to finish off the chances they created, saying:
“Two of them broke down when we could have gone ahead. When they are one up in the last ten minutes you have to go for it. We went for it, created a few chances but got caught with just two at the back so that’s the way it goes.”
His thoughts were echoed by captain Eimear Cregan: “We battled hard and were a lot more committed than we were against Malaysia but didn’t create as many chances as we should have with the possession we had and corners didn’t come off.
“It’s a very hard lesson to learn but we go back to the drawing board, put it to bed and when we play Chile on Saturday give it all we’ve got.”
Ireland are now out of the running for a World Cup spot but must play Chile and Australia to confirm their final ranking place in the competition and world ranking points over the weekend. The Australians, meanwhile, outlined their favourite’s tag with a 9-0 thrashing of Malaysia.
* For more of HockeyPress Argentina's photos from the Ireland vs Scotland game, click here. To download and listen to a post-match interview with Gene Muller, click here while Eimear Cregan's interview can be found here. For the live match-tracker, click here
Ireland: M Goode, R Flinn, C Sargent, E Cregan (capt), E Clarke, B Cleland, A Speers, J O’Halloran, N Symmons, A O’Flynn, E Smyth
Subs: M Harvey, S McCay, M Frazer, L Colvin, N Small
Scotland: A Walker, V Bunce, A Bell, C Forrest, S Judge, L Bartlett, A Robertson, E Maguire, L Wrightson, L Fawcett, K Marshall
Subs: K Cameron, H Cram, L Clement (capt), C Dow, A Clark
Standings (played, points, goal difference): 1. Australia 2-6pts (+14) 2. Scotland 1-3pts (+2) 3. Chile 2-3pts (-4) 4. Malaysia 3-3pts (-7) 5. Ireland 2-0pts (-5)