On the first day of EHL's KO16 event at Club Egara in Terrassa, Loughborough Students from England, Ono Atlètic Terrassa from Spain, HGC from the Netherlands, and Uhlenhorster HC from Germany progressed to the competition's quarter-finals, to be played at the same venue on Sunday.
English Loughborough Students and Belgian Royal Antwerp started off the day early. In a physical and far from pretty match that was mostly open battle, the two teams were equal through the bigger part of the match. A goal from Robert Smith eventually put the pressure on in a match that seemed headed for extra-time, and the Belgians crumbled, conceding a second goal near the end of the match instead of pulling level. Far from spectacular, the goal was a good reflection of the match in that phase, Loughborough needing 5 tries to score as Belgium defended all out but finally caved in.
Royal Antwerp were thus the first team to be eliminated from EHL's KO16 event, while Loughborough were happy to have secured their place in the competition's quarter-finals.
Next up was the big Catalan derby, filling the stands to capacity, and bringing fierce rivals Princess Polo de Barcelona and Ono Atlètic Terrassa out onto the field. The two teams delivered an encounter that must undoubtedly be considered the highlight of the day, as the teams engaged in an open exchange of blows. Play moved back and forth at a fast pace, as the highly skilled and talented athletes on both sides crossed swords.
The sides took turns in scoring, young star Roc Oliva netting first for Atlètic after less than three minutes, then Jose Borell equalizing for Polo, then Sergi Enrique tipping the balance in Atlètic's favor again, and Pol Amat levelling the score again. The teams headed into extra-time, where play continued to seesaw. Polo seemed to be able to pull ahead when temperamental defender Sergi Enrique picked up a yellow card, and thus a five minute suspension, but Polo could not capitalize on the advantage - and ended up paying a high price for it.
Still tied, the teams were sent into a penalty shoot-out, in which the first two pairs of attackers scored. On the third try for Polo, Atlètic goalkeeper Xavi Castillano unexpectedly came charging far out, catching Christian Wein off guard and hitting the ball away before the German could get in a shot. One goal ahead, Marc Sallés was last up for Atlètic, now with the chance of taking the match. Polo's goalkeeper tried to copy Castillano's charging strategy, but ended up knocking Sallés over, which got him awarded a goal without even having had a shot on goal. Atlètic celebrated elatedly as Polo swarmed the umpires to voice their disagreement with the decision. Despite the fierce protests of the boys from Barcelona, Ono Atlètic is the winner of the match, taking their place in the quarter-finals.
Following the thrilling encounter was HGC's match against HC Dinamo Kazan. The Dutch were never in much danger, the Russians clearly out of their depth against a team of this caliber. Putting away goals at a steady pace, the Gazelles made it six today, veteran penalty corner specialist Bram Lomans putting away a double, as did speedy forward Eric-Jan Iding, while Irishman John Jermyn and Timmo Kranstauber added the other two. Arsen Gevorkyan scored the lone goal for Dinamo, but it wasn't enough to do them any good, and the Russians thus travelled 4000km for just one match.
Uhlenhorster HC from Germany and Azzurri Keburne from Scotland wrapped up the day, with Uhlenhorster getting the better start and looking the stronger team. Having built up a seemingly solid three goal lead, the Germans temporarily slipped up however, allowing the Scots to get back into the match and draw it level to force their opponents into extra-time. There, reliable as ever veteran forward Philipp Sunkel scored his fourth goal in Euro Hockey League to give his team the elusive win and a ticket to the next round.
The quarter-finals from today's matches will match HGC with Ono Atlêtic Terrassa, and Uhlenhorster HC with Loughborough Students on Sunday.
For video highlights of today's matches, click here.
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