Portugal secure semi-final place in thriller 8-5 win
Eurohockey men’s Championship III, Pool B
Wednesday morning saw an early start to hockey with Portugal playing Slovakia with a 9am push-off. This was a crucial Pool B decide in which both teams were joint in points ahead of the match. The winner would guarantee themselves a place in the semi-finals.
Although it was an early start both sides would have been happy that a cool breeze was blowing through the stadium. This the first time since the start of the tournament where the heat did not present itself as a factor.
Nerves were apparent among the Portuguese who made two naive errors that lost them attacking momentum in their first minute of play.
The were, however, to earn a short corner that forced a brilliant save from the Slovakian keeper. A second short corner immediately after saw him block well and deny them a goal.
Slovakia immediately showed the meant business with a quick counter stopped by the Portuguese keeper.
The first five minutes saw a tense end to end match. Slovakia was to earn its first short corner after five minutes play. They were to make no mistake as the ball was smashed in low for the first goal.
Slovakia was unlucky not to get a second a long drive into the D was just inches away from getting deflected to goal.
With the score against them Portugal were forced to press high as Slovakia tried to slowed the pace to suite them when in possession.
The first quarter was played at a very fast pace with both teams taking the game to the other. It was an end to end affair with few pauses as Slovakia’s attempts to show the pace faltered by not having possession long enough.
This paid dividends for Portugal who struck in the equaliser with two minutes to the end of the quarter.
They were to then earn a short corner which was cleverly played back to sender to slot past keeper at the near post. Portugal going into the short break with a 2-1 lead.
The second quarter started at the same fast pace. Neither side giving away an inch and running at each other. This forced errors and some minor tensions. Portugal had a chance to pull away after five minutes. A strike from a short corner going past wrong side of the post.
Slovakia found themselves defending for the better part of latter side of the quarter. Their attempt to go forward saw Portugal break after stealing the ball and end up in a short corner. The keeper again putting in a good save, although the umpire had ruled against Portugal already.
Portugal, getting more confident as time passed went on to lead by 3-1 after scoring from a penalty following an infringement during a short corner with two minutes to half time. Slovakia pressed forward immediately and from a short corner play that had seemed to have gone wrong sunk in a low driven stunner for the 3-2. Portugal now entering the halftime break with just a one goal lead.
Slovakia took the game to Portugal from the start of the third quarter as they tried to claw back the deficit and looked for the equalizer.
With three minutes of the quarter left Slovakia’s pressure earned them a short corner which saw the keeper block well but only to see ball fall at the stick of a Slovakia forward to slot in for the equalizer.
Portugal put the pressure and forced through their fourth goal with a minute to go of the quarter to make it 4-3. The scoring was not to end there as Slovakia went out to grab the equalizer and with ten seconds to end of quarter pulled it off making it 4-4 at the end of the quarter.
Both teams had everything to play for in the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter saw end to end play at an exhilarating pace. It was Portugal who struck first after three minutes into the final quarter. On a quick break they broke through Slovakia’s defence to make it 5-4.
The final ten minutes had the few spectators watching at the date of their seats as both sides battled it out. Slovakia looking for that crucial equalizer whilst Portugal sought for that added goal that would secure them their lead.
The chilly breeze did little to dampen the excitement in what was turning out to be one of the most exciting matches in the tournament up to now.
Slovakia’s pressure paid off with a short corner with four minutes left on the clock. Slovakia striking the equalizer to bring the match into a thrilling finale with both teams at 5-5. Slovakia were dealt a heavy blow. One missed hit saw Portugal take advantage with a minute left to score their sixth. Just seconds later, stealing the ball in defence a quick break saw them run into the D to score their seventh.
At the very last second Portugal scored their final goal from a short corner play to finish 8-5 winners and secure a place in the semi-finals.