Long serving Eagles Thomas Silva becomes Eagles instant hero with the winner
It had been a some time in coming for Thomas Silva who this Thursday became an instant hero for Eagles HC supporters. A player who had been in many tournaments for Eagles had for some years not had the opportunity to play at this level on home turf. One of the many stalwarts on the field that have kept Eagles HC’s momentum going forward during the past years, the now veteran player stepped up to the penalty spot with minutes to go to calming slot the ball past Luxembourg HC keeper. Giving Eagles HC their first victory in the Eurohockey Men’s Challenge II pool A matches being hosted at the Bayside Sports Hockey pitch.
Silva repeating his penalty stroke in 2019 against Epitok which led to Eagles success that year although away from home.
With the western end of the stand filled with orange shirts Eagles bounced back in the fourth quarter to deliver the final blow after Luxembourg had equalised minutes after Julian Lopez had delivered a perfect drive sliced through the defence from a short corner to place Eagles ahead in the third quarter.
Eagles had started the match on top gears delivering the first attempt at goal within minutes from the start.
They were, however, to find Luxembourg a tough opposition with the visitors delivering a quick break as a response that saw their own attempt at goal going just wide.
Initially struggling to adjust to the movements of Luxembourg’s attackers Eagles were fortunate not to concede early on. Eagles adjusting to attackers playing behind them and constantly shifting positions closer to goal. A movement which had Jobim struggling at first to control Luxembourg’s eventual scorer. Eagles veteran defender, however, getting to grips with the player and closing his path. His goal coming from a short corner play in the third quarter.
Sebastian Rodriguez, eagles goalkeeper provided some timely blocks which kept Eagles in the game in the first two quarters. With further saves in the second half.
With Gareth Henwood and Jobim Torres both securing their defence Eagles sought to find a path to their opposition but were kept to a 0-0 on the scoreboard by half time as Luxembourg tightened their own lines.
Things changed in the second half as Eagles started to control more of the possession and did not rush into quick breaks until they had a pathway to goal.
After going ahead from a short corner Eagles found themselves on the backfoot and were to soon concede.
Some good movements from players such as Julian Hernandez, Julian Lopez and Leigh Dobinson provided some excitement as Eagles threatened to break past Luxembourg’s tight defensive lines.
Eagles were unlucky not to earn themselves a penalty as Julian Lopez was hooked by a stick sending him flying as he raced into the D. The umpire missing the fact he had been tripped as he squeezed past two defenders.
The visitors found themselves going into the latter minutes at a disadvantage as the cards flew out reducing their numbers on the field. Taking advantage of the numbers advantage Eagles threatened to break the deadlock. In one such attack the visitors conceding a penalty with just minutes to the finish.
An thrilled crowd rising to their feet in excitement as Silva send the ball into the back boards for a goal.
Eagles victory culminated what had been a successful day for the hosts who had seen their preparations to host the tournament fall into place.
With Eagles players from across their other categories pitching in to help, alongside volunteers from other parts of Gibraltar hockey, fans of the sport were greeted to a well organised day which saw two matches played before Eagles own match.
The Challenge II, however, had failed to deliver some of the quality of play which some had expected with the first match considered by some as below the standard many are accustomed to see. As some observers pointed out the effects of the global pandemic on the sport was still taking its shape with the different divisions still looking to reshape themselves to take the ranking shape seen before the pandemic.
With teams having dropped out and some associations dropping in ranking whilst others rose to fill the void there was now a mix bag of quality being seen on the field. The fact teams also had lesser exposure to international matches meant that there was uncertainty as to the opponents they faced.
Eagles next play on Saturday where they face Croatian side Mladost, a side which has previously played in Gibraltar and will prove to be tough opponents for Eagles. A win or a draw for Eagles will secure playing in the main crossover matches which will decide the two teams that will get promoted. Eagles in a group with just three teams and already having gained points from one of them.
Notably the match took place as Gibraltar started its Queen’s Jubilee celebrations. The Bayside Sports facilities opened specifically for the tournament where otherwise employees would have been enjoying the celebrations themselves in what is a long weekend in Gibraltar.
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