Ireland – Spain 1-0 (halftime 1-0)
It was the closest thing to a winner takes all game yet at the Hockey World League Round 2 tournament when Ireland and Spain met in a critical match-up. In the end Ireland came away with the important three points, essentially keeping their hopes for a top-two finish alive
With Belarus playing the role of Cinderella so far, it has left the two top-seeded teams fighting for survival. #14 Ireland suffered a 2-0 loss at the hands of Belarus earlier, while #16 Spain ceded a point to Italy in a shootout yesterday, making the race for Round 3 very tight.
Spain pulled out all the stops for today’s game against Irish, even bringing in a mini-marching band, but it was to no avail as the Irish played a conservative, well thought-out game against a Spanish team that go increasingly desperate the longer the scoreboard was stuck on zero.
Audrey O’Flynn was the first to score in the back-and-forth first half. She took advantage of a penalty stroke and easily struck gold with 11 minutes left in the first half to give the Irish the 1-0 advantage. The lead stood through the half, despite a few late penalty corner chances for the Spanish.
Spain applied heavy pressure in the second half, but the Irish defense stood its ground through some tense moments.
The win pulls the Irish even with Italy in the standings; both teams have six points. Belarus, which was idle today, leads the pack with seven points, while Spain finds itself in the unenviable position of trailing the leading trio with five points. Any one of the four teams can still qualify for the Hockey World League Semi-Finals tomorrow. The early game is Italy vs. Ireland and the finale of the tournament will feature Spain against Belarus.
Italy 8, Czech Republic 0 (halftime 3-0)
Italy did what it had to do to stay in the hunt for a Hockey World League Semi-Final spot after earning an 8-0 win against the Czech Republic. The win gives the Italians six points in three games, enough to keep their hopes alive in the wacky round robin standings in Valencia.
It was clear from the first whistle that the Italians were the better team. They scored a penalty corner in just the third minute of action and never looked back from there. Most of the game was played in front of the Czech net and the fatigued Czech team, playing their fourth straight game, gave up at least a dozen penalty corner chances, which the Italians took full advantage of, netting six of their eight goals on short corners.
The bright spot of the half came when Czech goalie Stepanka Smidova made a save on a penalty stroke chance. But there was little she could do to stop the 2-0 goal, which Alissia Padalino fired in mid-half. Dallia Mireabella closed the half with a streaking goal from the field in the last minute to give the Italians a comfortable lead at the break.
Agata Wybieralska got things rolling in the second half for Italy, scoring her second penalty corner goal of the day. With a 4-0 lead and the three points well in hand, Italy continued to cruise, putting in another four goals and getting two additional players on the scoresheet.
Italy now has a win, a shootout win and a shootout loss in their first three outings and have one game remaining against top-seeded Ireland. The Czechs go home from Valencia without a win in their four-game World League Round 2 experience.
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