Belgium 1, Spain 0
It was the first real test of the Athlon Car Least FIH Road to London Tournament and Belgium passed with flying colors in front of a standing room only crowd, beating Spain, 1-0
Sofie Gierts’ goal just over a minute into action stood as the only offense from both sides and was the difference in Belgium taking a giant leap towards the final game. Belgium now stands atop the standings along with Ireland as the only two undefeated teams at the event.
Belgium got a boost from the early goal and played a strong first half, but Spain slowly started threatening the Belgium goal and by the second half Spain was surely the better team. But in a game where scoring chances were at a minimum, Spain couldn’t convert their precious few opportunities, including a penalty corner given as time expired in regulation that could have tied the game.
World #11 Spain, the top seed at this tournament, has struggled in its first three games with offense, netting just one goal against France and going scoreless today. Meanwhile #16 Belgium and #14 Ireland are in good position each with the full nine points in their first three games. Spain’s loss today’s pretty much puts the team in a must-win position on Thursday when it they meet the Irish. Belgium will meet France.
Russia 3, France 2
After trailing the entire game, Russia had the last laugh today against France, earning a 3-2 win in a come-from-behind victory. It was the first game of the tournament between two closely ranked teams and it showed during game action as the squads were pitted in a see-saw battle.
France was the first team on the board 20 minutes into the game. Elise Preney scored after the initial penalty corner effort was blocked. Preney scooped up the rebound and popped in the 1-0 goal. Russia responded when Kristina Mozgovaya scored with a reverse goal late in the half.
Gwenaelle Dutel restored the French lead with a hard shot from the top of the circle to make it a 2-1 affair three minutes into the second half. Once, again Russia had the answer when Ksenia Shamina powered in a goal after the ball stayed in the Russian circle after a penalty corner.
Ultimately, the decision came down to the best-executed play of the game when Sveltana Grigorieva fed in a pass from the mid field to Mozgovaya who stretched to deflect the ball in for the 3-2 goal.
The three points are the first for Russia at the Athlon Car Least FIH Road to London Tournament. France now moves to the bottom of the standings along with winless Mexico. Meanwhile, Russia sits in fourth place with its three points. All teams have the day off tomorrow before Russia takes on the Mexicans on Thursday. France will meet host Belgium next.
Ireland 5, Mexico 0
Ireland had a tougher time than expected earning its third win at the Athlon Car Lease FIH Road to London Tournament against #30 Mexico, but in the end kept its undefeated record in place with a 5-0 victory.
Things weren’t pretty in the first half as Ireland had a sluggish start and, despite controlling nearly every aspect of the game, could not find the key to unlocking the Mexican goal.
The goals started flowing only after 10 minutes in the second half when Audrey O’Flynn flicked in a short corner for the all-important 1-0 goal. Oddly enough, about five minutes after the goal, Mexico pulled goalkeeper Ahidee Castillo in favor of Selma del la Flores despite the strong performance Castillo had turned in.
Shortly after, Ireland opened the flood gates with Emma Smyth scoring on a reverse for the 2-0 marker. The Irish pour in another three goals in the last five minutes of action – all coming as a result of short corners, brining the final to 5-0, a respectable, but not overwhelming, result for the Irish.
Ireland will need to step it up in its next match as it takes on top-seeded Spain, ranked #11 in the FIH World Ranking on Thursday. That game will have major implications for Sunday’s final as the winner will be in pole position at the tournament.
Note: Nicola Symmons earned her 172nd cap in the game making her the most-capped player in Irish Hockey history.
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