Gibraltar lose match against Switzerland in third quarter
Eurohockey championship qualifier D 2022 Pool A, Scotland - Gibraltar 2-7 Switzerland
It was a tough lesson for Gibraltar’s debutants as they faced a 7-2 defeat at the hands of Switzerland but still having produced an impressive first half, and only faltered in the early part of the third quarter.
It was however, nothing new for the veterans in the squad who have faced such experiences in the past and risen to the challenge.
First penalty corner came after just five minutes into the match in favour of Switzerland who had held possession.
The penalty corner was to end in a goal with the ball swiped up high above the keeper who could do little to stop the shot. Switzerland had been forecast to run away with the match and the first goal seemed to signal this might happen from early on.
However, Gibraltar had started positively holding strong and not shrieking from their opponents even after the previous days heavy defeat against Scotland.
With eight debutants in the tournament this was a new era for the Gibraltar national hockey team .
Young Ethan Balban, among the debutants showed how his talent will be an asset for the future. A long ball from Lopez saw Balban force a penalty corner which saw Gibraltar grab a second chance after the first attempt was blocked.
Gibraltar were denied after some good play in front of goal but earned a third consecutive penalty corner.
This time Lopez smashed in the equaliser boosting Gibraltar’s confidence and setting the tone for the first two quarters.
Keeping a tight hold through the middle and maintaining their discipline Gibraltar held Switzerlands immediate offensive response at bay. This releasing some of the pressure as they neared the latter part of the first quarter.
Pilcher was unfortunate to see the ball strike his foot as he challenged for the ball in defence giving away a penalty corner.
Gibraltar’s defence with captain Rammage holding fast cleared the danger.
Gibraltar managed to ease the pressure and started to get some fluidity in their passing and unsettling the Swiss who had been expected to run away with the match.
Instead Gibraltar held to finish the first quarter on level terms at 1-1.
The Swiss searched for an early penalty corner and forced it to grab their second goal with a low drive squeezed by the near post.
Gibraltar, in their red kits didn’t hesitate to try and drive forward as they searched for an equaliser.
The Swiss turned over play and a long ball forward led to the play in which they earned two consecutive penalty corners. The first blocked. The second one Gibraltar doing well to close down well and clear from the goalmouth.
Midway through the second quarter Hernandez produced the first top class goal of the quarter. Stealing well in offence he produced a solo effort that went past three defenders before he slotted past the keeper for the equaliser.
Switzerland responded with their own solo effort to take the lead within a minute spoiling Gibraltar’s celebrations but setting the tone for a thrilling second quarter.
Youngsters Bossano-Anes and Balban produced some good combination play to place Switzerland under pressure. However, it was veteran Haveland who impacted Gibraltar’s offensive as he earned himself a card after disputing a foul decision in favour of Gibraltar.
With one man down Switzerland gained the advantage on the field slowing Gibraltar’s offensive play.
Some good defensive play allowed Gibraltar to stop Switzerland whilst they waited to get all their eleven players back on the field.
Gibraltar held on and went into halftime with some positives although behind by 2-3.
Switzerland started strongly in the third quarter controlling possession as Gibraltar sat back.
A driven ball through the middle on what was a freshly watered pitch slipped through the middle and was deflected goal bound for the Swiss’ fourth.
Buoyed by the goal Switzerland went on the offensive again with the ball driven across in front of goal and latched on at the far right to score. The defender unable to clear off the line after the ball bounced by the post.
The two quick succession goals saw Gibraltar react as they were now 5-2 down with still a long way for the third quarter to finish.
Guided by the more experienced in the team Gibraltar sought to find a pathway for a third goal but were met by some solid defending and a confident Swiss side that now had a safety cushion to play with.
Gibraltar did not step back though and did pressure Switzerland high. However, this also left play far more open which the Swiss capitalised on to find the back of the net once more to make it 6-2.
The lack of competitive matches at this level also started to have its impact on the Gibraltar side as they started to find it increasingly more difficult to keep a high tempo pace across the whole field.
Funnily among one of the players doing the running upfront was veteran Abudharam who had missed the first match against Scotland because of a pending one match ban given twelve years before. Having only just returned to international competition he was forced to complete the one match ban before he was allowed to play in the competition. His return to the field against Switzerland his first match back in twelve years.
The latter part of the third quarter saw play become more open as gaps appeared on both sides. Gibraltar, although four goals behind still trying to go on the offensive to close the deficit. However, the differences in the levels of fitness could be seen as they headed for the third quarter break. This highlighting once again the lack of international level competition Gibraltar players have faced in recent seasons. Last summer not attending this competition.
Gibraltar, nevertheless did not give up. Balban was denied a goal early in the fourth quarter as Gibraltar continued to look for that third goal.
Forcing during long periods the Swiss back into their half to defend.
Although facing a four goal deficit Gibraltar’s response in the final quarter, especially from some of the debutants provided some positives as even looking exhausted from their efforts they continued to run at the Swiss.
Their sustained pressure up to the final three minutes did not yield a goal. Instead, a quick counter by Switzerland produced their seventh goal against the run of play.
Gibraltar earned themselves a penalty corner in the last minute just a Switzerland were also reduced to ten men following a green card.
The final shot blocked just off the line by the keepers foot denying Gibraltar what should have been a well earned third goal.
Instead, a third quarter disaster conceding consecutive goals early on in the quarter resulted in Gibraltar facing a 7-2 defeat after an impressive first half display.
The match a tough lesson for the debutants but one in which positives were seen from what is essentially a very small pool of hockey players.