Europa Womens HC beats Eagles in cup
On a dull Sunday midday, Europa and Eagles brought some color to the water-based hockey pitch. The green and whites, playing against the Oranges, started brightly. The barking dogs in the background at the tercentenary sports hall, hosting the annual dog show, did little to disrupt the actual play on the field.
Eagles, with the return of some of their players this season from their studies, reinforced and confident, provided an early challenge to set the tone of the match. With a working scoreboard, the match resembled a high-tier game, providing the slowly increasing crowd with some extra excitement.
Europa, although initially pressed back, found the back of the net within the first five minutes, but the goal was disallowed. Europa didn't make too much of a complaint. Instead, they proceeded to play the game and, within a minute, struck the first real blow—a sliced low drive across the goal to the back of the far post. With chants from the stands, "now you can't say it's not a goal," the tempo increased. Both sides showed urgency in their play as the rivalry on the field provided a competitive contest.
Eagles, on a quick break, earned themselves a penalty corner, which had to be retaken due to a too quick push. The umpires had to slow the pace as players were trying to restart too quickly. Eagles momentarily pressed Europa back in the latter part of the first quarter. However, Europa was soon back attacking, earning a penalty corner with three minutes to play in the quarter. Good defensive play blocked any attempt, and the first quarter ended with Europa leading 1-0.
It was Europa who set off in the second quarter, taking the game to Eagles. A resilient Eagles defense weathered the surge as they tried to break forward. Eagles struggled to come out of their half, not getting past the 25-yard line until half the quarter had been played.
Europa's failure to clear the danger was costly as Eagles earned a short corner and equalized with their first ball past the halfway line in the quarter. This gave Eagles an added boost and saw them move their lines up to place pressure on Europa. Janieve's surging run into the 'D' forced a foul and earned another penalty corner. Eagles came close to scoring a second. The final minutes of the second quarter saw a tightly contested match, with the main play through the middle. Neither side quite dominated, and both teams headed into the halftime break level at 1-1.
The third quarter started with the same intensity as they had finished at halftime. Neither side was willing to give away an inch of territory and cancelled each other out through the middle at first. Slowly though, Europa was advancing and soon had the ball in the back of the goal, although an infringement had been called first against them. A mistake in a back pass gifted Europa the ball and forced them to give away a penalty corner. Scrambling away in front of goal, Eagles saw the ever-present Janieve clear the danger with some grit.
Eagles found themselves moments later scrambling to clear in front of their goal line once again. This time giving away a penalty corner. The ball deflected at the last minute past the wrong side of the post for another penalty corner. A brave lunge forward took a body blow from the ball protecting Eagles' goal.
Eagles threatened to break free quickly with Lucas looking for a run. However, thwarted, the Oranges found themselves again protecting their goal. Again, the same player was knocked early by the ball, receiving a further knock and forced to pull away from defending a short corner. Yet another short corner beckoned as the ball was deflected high en route to gain. A foot from the goalkeeper and a stick from Alison deflected the final shot away from goal. Europa's pressure earned them yet another short corner. And yet again, another as Eagles defended their goalmouth. Europa's pressure was, however, not capitalized upon as Eagles protected their goal and regained possession momentarily.
Eagles' keeper was fortunate, as with three minutes left, thinking the ball was going into the goal without a touch, she saw it bounce off the ball and narrowly miss the back of her foot. A quick reaction from Europa players and Eagles defenders ended in another short corner. Again, Eagles protected their goal well, frustrating Europa. Instead, Eagles were now on the offensive and placed pressure on the Europa defense in the final two minutes of the third quarter. The third quarter finished with both sides level at 1-1.
It was to be a decisive fourth quarter in what was the first big top clash in the women's cup. With very narrow margins between the two sides, it was the exhaustion of a rapidly played three quarters that would be the key factor.
Europa pushed Eagles back into their half from the start once again. Resilient in defense, they stalled Europa. The latter kept prodding at the defense, but as they entered the final ten minutes of the match, goal opportunities were limited. With 8 minutes left, Europa had a short corner, but well-cleared Eagles were unlucky not to turn defense into a goal opportunity as the long ball forward was just inches from being collected unmarked.
With seven minutes left, a run down the right flank saw the ball delivered low to the middle. Letting it pass for the player behind, Europa found themselves with space to strike at goal and break the deadlock. Europa exerted high pressure on Eagles, not allowing them breathing space as they searched for a third. Eagles, nevertheless, did not give up and nearly surprised with a long ball forward. However, with little support to aid them, they were unable to find a finish.
Europa instead found themselves with a short corner in the final minute, which ended in yet another as the ball was attempted to be scrambled from the goalmouth. The final shot ended wide. Europa was able to protect their lead against Eagles' final surge forward, winning 2-1.