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A gritty performance from Gibraltar women’s hockey doesn’t prevent second defeat

Croatia 2-0 Gibraltar

Gibraltar women’s second international in Eurohockey took the form of facing a strong, physical Croatia, hosts of the Eurohockey Championship III tournament.
Gibraltar showed its intent from the start with their first play taking the ball into Croatia’s goalmouth.
On a very wet pitch with puddles across it and under grey skies this was a deep contrast to their preparations under the intense summer heat experienced before their departure.
Pressing high up the field Gibraltar came close to scoring within the first five minutes stealing inside the D. Unfortunately forced wide, when the ball came in to the centre a call for an infringement halted their opportunity from materialising.
Gibraltar women had nevertheless set the tone from the start of the match showing that they were not there as spectators but to compete for a win.
It took Croatia some seven minutes before they were able to get inside the 25 yard line zone of Gibraltar and start putting on their own pressure on the visitors.
Croatia as hosts had high expectations of their own infront of their own home fans, although there were few to see.
With seven minutes of the first quarter played Gibraltar’s pressure paid off earning a penalty corner. A swinging arm from the keeper giving away a high ball as she saved giving Gibraltar a second chance. Croatia scrambling the ball away from the goalmouth somehow. Gibraltar at this stage looking the most likely to score.
Croatias attempt for a quick break was soon broken down as Gibraltar maintained their momentum forward but were unable to keep possession for long.
With calls of “wake up wake up” from the sidelines as Gibraltar’s defence were slow in getting the ball moving once they regained possession play started to concentrate around the centre half of the park with neither side giving away much space.
An energetic determination from an all black-kitted out Gibraltar kept Croatia busy but with few opportunities for either side in front of goal.
A scoreless first quarter replicating Gibraltar’s first quarter against Switzerland the previous day, with Gibraltar now hoping they had learnt the lessons from their debut match in the Euros.
The hosts who had also lost 4-0 the previous day against Turkey had the added pressure on their shoulders, with some nervy play seen as Gibraltar’s high pressure set the tone in the second quarter.
A tireless chasing for the ball and placing pressure on players high up the field when not in possession kept Gibraltar digging inside Croatia’s half in the early stages of the second quarter. The hosts struggling to find a way out.
It was not until halfway through the quarter that the hosts found their way into Gibraltar’s D, only to be thwarted by some stern defending.
Although Gibraltar maintained their momentum, prodding at Croatia’s defence and pressing high up the field, it was Croatia who were to strike the first blow. Their first real attempt at goal producing the goods for them as they took the lead on the 23rd minute as church bells coincidentally rang out across the vicinity.
The goal was a confidence boost for the hosts who found themselves pushing Gibraltar back into their half and earning a penalty corner soon after.
A save by the keeper stopped what looked like a certain goal, however, the rebound going to Croatia who saw an infringement earn them a penalty stroke. Fortunately for Gibraltar this was struck wide of the target keeping Gibraltar still in with a chance to comeback to level.
Croatia maintained their momentum forward and made it difficult for Gibraltar to get past the halfway line in the latter minutes of the second quarter.
Forced to defend deeper it was Croatia now setting the pace.
Some gritty running from Emma Flower in combination with Caetano and Casciaro saw Gibraltar grab a penalty corner opportunity with 40 seconds on the clock for halftime.
This leading to a second chance with a second infringement. The second penalty corner blocked by the keeper and the subsequent rebound falling to Casciaro who earned a third after being blocked by a defenders foot.
A fourth penalty corner was again given with Croatia conceding a penalty stroke as they defended infront of goal.
Casciaro’s penalty stroke well saved by Croatia’s keeper with just seconds of play left for the half-time break. Gibraltar unfortunate not to level the score.
Gibraltar started by pressing high but within seconds found themselves having to defend against a quick break which led to a penalty corner.
Gibraltar’s defence standing firm and clearing the danger as the shot rung in.
The hosts, boosted by the fact they had the lead kept the momentum they had set at the latter stages of the second quarter. Gibraltar forced to defend deeper than they would have wished. This leaving a wider gap between defence and the frontline.
A chance to place high pressure on Croatia came once again after five minutes of the second half. However, having learnt their lessons Croatia started to find their way back to setting their own pace. This providing them with a chance to get down the flank and put a ball into the D. Slicing across goal Croatia just needed a deflection to beat the keeper as they grabbed a second goal.
On the back-foot it was only a brilliant save from the Gibraltar keeper that kept Gibraltar in the game just moments later as Croatia searched for their third.
Defending deep again Gibraltar gave away a penalty corner with eight minutes left on the clock for the third quarter. Some brave goalkeeping blocked Croatia on three occasions and finally stopping at their feet. The keeper surrounded by four Croatian players as she dived to block again.
It was not long before Gibraltar’s defence again faced another penalty corner. Croatia missing their first chance but regaining possession immediately and coming at Gibraltar again.
Gibraltar’s keeper once again doing well to block as Croatia attempted a shot from a narrow angle.
As they entered the final four minutes Gibraltar’s frontline had a chance to provide some breathing space for their defence pressing high up the field and momentarily keeping Croatia within their half. This running the clock down although not providing much opportunity to cut the deficit.
It was not until the last minute that Croatia saw a player benched with a green card that Gibraltar had an opportunity to try and gain ground. However, Croatia closed ranks and gave little away, instead inching forward slowly. Gibraltar losing a player to a yellow card in the final seconds of the quarter as they entered the short break with Croatia leading 2-0.
The fourth quarter saw Gibraltar having to once again defend deep early on. Struggling to find a way back into the game Gibraltar had to content with protecting the score and ensuring Croatia were prevented from adding to their lead.
Croatia doing well to cancel out Gibraltar’s offensive even though a gritty, determined persistence from Gibraltar kept threatening to try for a comeback.
As the match entered its final five minutes tired legs on both sides saw more space appear which allowed Gibraltar to come at Croatia and try and press higher up the field.
Croatia with a player left for two minutes of the final three went on the backfoot as Gibraltar started to prod at their defence.
Gibraltar was unable to find a break through.
Croatia protecting their two goal lead. Gibraltar although walking away still unable to find a goal providing further proof that they were a tough opposition to play against even though this was their first campaign in the Euros.
Gibraltar women’s hockey coming away with many positives for their forthcoming matches.

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