Photo credit: Yan Huckendubler
WEST VANCOUVER – Canadian fans were treated to a high scoring affair but one that did not favour the home side as Canada’s men’s national team fell by a gruelling 5-3 to Ireland in Game 1 of the FIH Olympic Qualifier on Oct. 26 in West Vancouver. Canada had two goals from Keegan Pereira and one from Gordie Johnston.
The loss means that Canada needs to win by three tomorrow to secure their spot to the Tokyo 2020 Games, while a tie in aggregate scoring will force the game to a shootout.
“I think Ireland started really well and we were pretty tentative,” said Canadian head coach Paul Bundy. “It wasn’t our game plan to be tentative. We rely on our defence and we are pretty good on our defence. Today it just wasn’t there. I think the occasion got to us and there were some discipline issues that got to us as well. We had three cards their where they scored two goals and it’s very difficult to play against a good team like Ireland when we have players off the pitch.”
Shane O’Donoghue and Sean Murray each tallied twice for Ireland and Chris Cargo buried the game’s opening goal.
FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifiers Match 10 Highlights: Canada v Ireland#RoadToTokyo #Tokyo2020 #GiftOfHockey@FieldHockeyCan @IreMenHockey @irishhockey @olympicchannel @Tokyo2020 @Olympics pic.twitter.com/XAEAWQcL5d
— International Hockey Federation (@FIH_Hockey) October 27, 2019
Canada was forced under pressure from the opening whistle as Ireland earned three penalty corners in six minutes. Unable to capitalize on the set pieces, Cargo was able to put Ireland up 1-0 in the eighth. Cargo stripped the Canadian defence and went in with Matthew Nelson and buried the ball on the back-hand past keeper Antoni Kindler.
Just before the end of the opening quarter Canada earned their first penalty corner. Doing what he does best Johnston stepped up and flicked a high shot that beat Ireland keeper David Fitzgerald and tied the game at one.
“It felt good and we have a lot of people out here supporting us to it’s a nice feeling to put one in the net and see all your friends, family and people in Canadian field hockey right there supporting you,” added Johnston about scoring Canada’s opener.
John McKee’s deflection in tight nearly put Ireland ahead as he deflected a low penalty corner flick from Conor Harte just over the Canadian cross bar in the 22nd minute.
Despite the flow favouring Ireland it was Canada that scored next. The penalty corner was off target forcing Pereira to trap the ball on his forehand but the Ajax, Ont. midfielder made no mistake and smashed in a go-ahead goal.
Floris van Son nearly made it a two-goal lead for Canada as his 3D skills opened up some space to volley the ball towards goal but Fitzgerald made the block. Canada held on to their 2-1 edge entering half time.
Ireland were right back to business earning a penalty corner just two minutes in to the third quarter. O’Donoghue rocketed a flick high and just inside the right post to draw the game level at two. The teams traded penalty corner chances but both defensive units looked stingy.
A miss-trapped back pass for Canada put Ireland on a quick counter attack with lots of open space. With Kindler charging out the ball fell to the top of the circle and Murray swept in at third Irish goal into an unguarded Canadian goal.
Canada’s best free play chance came in the 45th minute when Gabriel Ho-Garcia’s finest of touches had him going straight towards Ireland’s end with lots of space. Ho-Garcia found the stick of Matthew Sarmento who beat his defender and fired a back-hand shot. Fitzgerald stood Sarmento up with stacked pads.
In the 48th minute Pereira restored the game to even, 3-3, after he received a hard pass near the baseline from Adam Froese. Pereira was looking to find some space or a foul in the circle but smashed it in from the tight angle.
It took just three minutes for Ireland to respond as a hard ball across the circle fell kindly to the stick of Murray at the back post. Murray’s reverse stick touch in to the mesh lifted Ireland 4-3 with nine minutes to go in the game.
O’Donoghue shocked the crowd as he put in another well-executed drag flick on a penalty corner in the 53rd minute giving Ireland the two goal cushion, up 5-3.
Canada continued to press until the final whistle but were unable to put anymore past Fitzgerald. Canada was forced to accept the two-goal loss and will regroup tomorrow, Oct. 27, at 2:00 p.m. PT at Rutledge Field.
“It was a pressure filled situation,” said defender Johnston. “We started off a little bit slow and got back in to the game. We did well to fight and stay with it but we need to expect a little more of ourselves and we can provide a much better performance in tomorrow’s game.”
Player of the match: Shane O’Donoghue, Ireland
A reminder of how the two-match system works:
The winners will be determined as follows: teams will be ranked according to the number of points each has accumulated in both matches (for each match, 3 points are awarded to the winner, 1 point to each team in the event of a draw and 0 point to the loser). If there is equality among the two teams, then the teams will be ranked according to their respective goal difference. If the equality remains, a shoot-out competition will be played to establish the winner.
The starting line-ups for both teams can be found here.
Umpires: Ben Goentgen (GER) & Diego Barbas (ARG)
Video Umpire: Gareth Greenfield (NZL)