Belgium - Ireland 1-2 aet (fulltime: 1-1; halftime: 0-0)
Audrey O’Flynn’s final hooter penalty corner saw the Irish home crowd explode as they claimed the laurels from a frenetic, extra-time quarter-final tussle to edge out Belgium in the Electric Ireland FIH Champions Challenge I. It earns the Irish a final four date with USA while the Belgians fall into the 5th to 8th playoffs where they will play Wales on Saturday.
It earned a small amount of payback for Ireland at the hands of the side that ended their Olympic dream back in March though they rode their luck at times. Belgium twice had clear openings in the first half as Erica Coppey and Alix Gerniers raised close-range efforts over the bar as they looked the more threatening side in the first half.
But Ireland took the lead from their first shot in anger in the 50th minute when Michelle Harvey’s drag-flick ballooned up off the first runner and over Aisling D’Hooghe. It fell perfectly for Aine Connery to tap in from the right post. Both Louise Cavenaile and O’Flynn spent time in the sin-bin during a hectic closing phase before Belgium brought the game to extra-time via Anouk Raes’ tidy penalty corner goal seven minutes from time.
And Jill Boon went centimetres from ending the tie a minute into golden goal as her clip shot hit the inside of the post. In response, Alex Speers missed a seemingly open goal on the stroke of half-time of the extra periods. But Smyth earned a corner on the final whistle and, at the second attempt, O’Flynn picked out the bottom corner for the victory.
Australia - South Africa 2-1 (halftime: 1-1)
Emily Smith struck just four minutes from time to break South Africa hearts, ending their staunch resistance as tournament favourites Australia advanced to an Electric Ireland FIH Champions Challenge I semi-final date with Scotland. The sides had been locked at 1-1 for almost the entire second half as the Hockeyroos dominated the play but could not find a way through a defence marshaled by Lisa-Marie Deetlefs and Vuyisanani Mangisa.
That was until Anna Flanagan’s drag-flick was half-stopped and the defensive clearance only made it as far as Smith on the right post and she duly potted the winner. Early on, Flanagan’s corner prowess put the Aussies 1-0 up in the 12th minute, finding the top corner with an excellent drag, her third goal of the competition. But South Africa responded well, enjoying the better chances of the second quarter and they were on terms when Izelle Lategan picked out Sulette Damons who powerfully made it 1-1 in the 20th minute.
She went close to making it a half-time lead, too, when Nicolene Terblanche threaded a fine pass into the speedster’s path but Damons blazed wide with her driven shot when a little more finesse might yielded greater dividends. Australia, though, bossed the second period with Smith’s bouncing effort squirting just wide while Mangisa pulled off a number of good saves. But they could not see it through to full-time and Australia overcame a big hurdle in their tournament progression.
USA - Wales 7-2 (halftime: 3-1)
USA confirmed their place in the semi-finals with a comprehensive 7-2 win over tournament minnows Wales. The world number 11 side had too much in the tank for the tournament low rank, building a 3-0 lead by the 25th minute. Katie O’Donnell got them up and running with an arrowed shot into the bottom corner before Torrie Albini smashed one through the Welsh defences and Shannon Taylor nicked the third over the line from Albini’s initial strike.
Tina Evans pulled one back from Wales’ only penalty corner just before half-time but four more second half goals handed the US a comfortable passage through. Taylor bundled one in from close range before Lauren Pfeiffer added a penalty stroke and a corner goal. Albini’s second closed out their tally before Phoebe Richards drew the loudest cheer when she scored her second of the tournament five minutes from the end for Wales.
Scotland - India 1-1 (halftime: 0-0); Scotland won 3-1 on penalties
Scotland earned the first semi-final spot after going the distance against India in a 3-1 shootout win. The Scots had to overcome a sluggish start, but more than made up for it with a strong second half capped by the convincing shootout performance.
India took a 1-0 lead with six minutes into the second half when Jaspeet Kaur scored on a penalty stroke. The goal capped a strong first-half performance by the Indians, who dominated much of the action in the first 45 minutes of the game. Unfortunately for India, the goal woke up the Scottish team, which sprung into action after seeing the 1-0 deficit on the scoreboard.
Scotland peppered the Indian net through the rest of regulation and was finally rewarded with the equalizer with 12 minutes left in the game when Susan McGilveray fired in a goal. It ended a 20-minute span that saw India constantly fending off a strong Scottish attack. Scotland put on pressure to get the win in the last two minutes, but had to settle for extra time. In the 15 extra minutes, there were several good chances on both ends of the field, but strong goalkeeping saved the day for both teams and sent the match into a shootout.
In the shootout, India held the 1-0 lead after the first round, but Scotland stormed back again and rattled in three unanswered goals to take the 3-1 win on the fourth shot, securing their spot in the semi-final.
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