On the day of the final pool matches in the women's GANT EuroHockey Championship, England turned around their match against Ireland in the second half, Germany dispatched Belgium, Spain slipped past Azerbaijan and the Netherlands defeated Italy.
England and Ireland were first to take the field today, and a lively game developped from the start. England dominated the early phases of the match but failed to capitalize on their advantage, and were rudely awakened by Niamh Small's 33rd minute goal which gave Ireland the half time lead. The English came back blazing after the break however, turning the match with a double hit at the hands of Hannah MacLeod and Helen Richardson. A penalty corner from Anne Panter took the scoreline to the safe zone, and England cruised through the remaining quarter of an hour without any danger.
Next up was the duel for pool B's second semi-final place behind England, which pitted Germany against Belgium. After a hesitant start, the game soon turned into open battle, with Germany progressively taking control. After a disappointing performance against England two days ago, Germany was a changed team today, playing with a verve sorely missed on Sunday. The home team first struggled a little to capitalize on their opportunities, but a penalty corner deflection from Maike Stöckel finally put them on the right path. In the second half, Germany had a tight grip on the game, and added a double pack of goals through Janine Beermann and Eileen Hoffmann, while the rapidly tiring Belgian players could hardly create any danger to the German goal anymore. Janne Müller-Wieland completed today's damage with the hosts' fourth five minutes from the end, and Germany had confirmed their semi-final ticket.
The third match saw Azerbaijan and Spain cross sticks, with Spain already safely tucked away in the semi-final before the match. Lined up for the anthems, the Spanish players first displayed a message of encouragement for one of their own, Maider Tellería, a record four time Olympian (1992-2004), who is currently hospitalized with a life-threatening viral infection of the brain.
In a clash of equal opponents, and with high temperatures and humidty taking their toll, play was slow to gather speed, and neither side could get onto the scoreboard in the first half. Shortly after the break, Pilar Sanchez got her team ahead with a penalty corner conversion, but the Azeri team responded less than three minutes later with a deflection goal from Mi Seon Aliyeva to balance the score again. The remainder of the game was a back and forth between the two rivals, until Anabel Flores restored the lead for the Spanish five minutes from the end, after which they contented themselves with holding the score until the final whistle. Spain thus come out on top of pool A to face Germany in their semi-final.
The day ended with the Netherlands locking horns with Italy. The world number 2 took a step forward after Sunday's slip against Spain, even though they were still far from their usual form and struggled to put their superior skills into practice and score. It took the Oranjes twenty minutes to first get on the scoreboard, through a Maartje Paumen corner conversion, but Naomi van As followed up fast with Holland's second. Macarena Ronsisvalli managed to get her team back at the Dutch heels with a penalty corner goal for Italy, but the other side shifted up a gear in the second half, and never looked back. A reverse stick goal from Kim Lammers and another short corner wisely used by Maartje Paumen led the Dutch ahead and away, and Sabine Mol's 68th minute goal finalized the 5-1 final result. The Netherlands end the pool round in pool A's second place which pits them against pool B winners England.
Today's results thus put the Netherlands and England into one semi-final, with Spain and Germany meeting in the other, while Azerbaijan, Belgium, Ireland and Italy move on to the relegation pool C, which is led by Belgium, with Azerbaijan in second, and Ireland and Italy in the hot seats.
For more information on this event, please visit the EHF website www.eurohockey.org.
The EuroHockey Championships, held in Mönchengladbach from 20 to 28 August, will confirm 5 more participants in the 2012 Olympic hockey tournament in addition to the already qualified Great Britain men and women, Pakistan men and China and Korea women: the highest ranked three men's and two women's teams, excluding England, will secure their ticket to London.
Ireland - England 1:3 (1:0)
Niamh Small; Hannah MacLeod, Helen Richardson, Anne Panter
Germany - Belgium 4:0 (1:0)
Maike Stöckel, Janine Beermann, Eileen Hoffmann, Janne Müller-Wieland
Azerbaijan - Spain 1:2 (0:0)
Mi Seon Aliyeva; Pilar Sanchez, Anabel Flores
Netherlands - Italy 5:1 (2:1)
Maartje Paumen 2, Naomi van As, Kim Lammers, Sabine Mol; Macarena Ronsisvalli
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