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Ireland – Czech Republic 4-1 (2-1 halftime)

Ireland entered the Hockey World League Round 2 tournament as the top-ranked team in the FIH World Ranking weighing in at #15. But today’s meeting against lowest-ranked #37 Czech Republic was anything but a cakewalk for the Irish, who held a slim 2-1 lead at the half,  but powered home a 4-1 victory.

The Czechs took the surprising 1-0 lead just five minutes into action when Monika Kostalova took advantage of an Irish defensive miscue to take the lead. Ireland had several penalty corners following the goal, but it wasn’t until the 17th minute that the Irish found the equalizer when Lisa Jacob finally converted one of the short corner chances. Aine Connery gave Ireland its first lead of the game just as time expired at the half-time break.

Ireland came out fired up in the second half as Audrey O’Flynn quickly turned the lead into a 3-1 advantage with a penalty corner shot just two minutes in the second stanza. From there, Ireland dominated the action and left nothing to chance, keeping the Czechs far away from being a scoring threat. Nicola Gray ultimately sealed the win late in the game with a 4-1 goal, but it must be said that O’Flynn’s earlier marker was the true final blow for the Czechs.

Ireland will look to improve a bit against Belarus tomorrow, while the Czechs take on host Spain.

Italy – Belarus 2-2 (2-1 halftime, 3-1 shootout)

With a mere four World Ranking points separating Italy and Belarus, chances were good that today’s Hockey World League meeting would be a barn burner and it indeed lived up to expectations as Italy out-distanced Belarus 3-1 in a shootout to take two points from the meeting.

Italy looked to be in pole position in the first half as they held the lead throughout nearly the entire 35 minutes. Alissia Padalino gave the Italians the early 1-0 lead 16 minutes into action and Guiuliana Ruggieri double the advantage with five minutes left  in the half.

But Belarus quickly sparked to life, netting a goal in the last minute of the first half and following up with the equalizer in the first minute of the second half. .Yukiya Mikheichyk was the first-half hero, while teammate Natilla Stsifutkina scored the 2-2 equalizer.

Belarus clearly had the momentum, but could not score the go-ahead goal as the teams engaged in a see-saw battle in the next 35 minutes. With the score deadlocked at two when the final hooter sounded, it was time for a shootout. Italy proved that they had the softer scoring touch in the shoot-out, easily topping Belarus, 3-1.

Belarus will look to rebound against host Spain tomorrow, while Italy can enjoy a day off in the five-team round robin.