Campaign back on track as Ireland stick it to Canadians

Ireland 2 Canada 1

Given that the Canadians had only lost by a single goal to Pakistan in their opener, no one in the Irish camp was taking the match as a given and their fears were well grounded as Ireland had to really battle for the three points.

They thought they’d made a magnificent start after just 30 seconds when Phelie Maguire, making his debut for Ireland in a major tournament, fed the ball to Mark Irwin, who appeared to score with ease.

However, the ball was adjudged to have hit his foot before he struck it and the goal was disallowed.

Even so, there was an urgency about the Irish in the opening stages and they were determined to atone for the English game.

They pressurised the Canadians relentlessly early on and were rewarded with a penalty corner on 12 minutes after John Jermyn was fouled inside the Canadian circle.

That they spurned the chance was disappointing, but they kept up the pressure and six minutes later Justin Sherriff was denied by a magnificent save by Canada’s goalie Mike Mahood. Ireland got a second short corner on 23 minutes, but Stephen Butler’s drive was blocked on the line. The Irish effort seemed to wane slightly thereafter, as the Canadians began to find time and space to play.

Butler made amends with just two minutes left in the half, when he rocketed home Ireland’s third short corner to give them a deserved lead. His low drive to the left of Mahood was unstoppable even for a ‘keeper of the Canadian’s calibre.

The Irish nearly got a shock right on the half-time hooter when they gave away a short corner, and were it not for the pace of Jason Black off the line to block the shot, the scores would have been level at the break.

As it was, the Canadians equalised - against the run of play - just after the break when Michael Lee got a touch on a fizzing cross to score and give Canada hope they barely deserved.

But Ireland responded and just a minute later Mark Gleghorne latched onto a through ball from Stephen Butler and fired a magnificent reverse stick shot past Mahood.

With nearly half an hour left to play Canada tried vainly to get an equaliser as hard as Ireland tried to get the goal which would seal the victory.

Michael Lee nearly scored with an identical move to the one which he had scored from, while both Andy Barbour and Justin Sherriff both went close for Ireland.

The intensity of the play was reflected by the yellow cards issued to Mark Black and Anthony Wright, which left both sides with 10 men for a period, but it was the Canadians’ decision to take off their goalie with four minutes remaining to give them 11 outfield players which proved most contentious.

Canada coach Gene Muller said afterwards that as there are no time-outs in hockey, he used the flap that ensued to rally his players and try to upset the Irish, but his plan was nearly undone when Mark Irwin only just shot wide in the dying seconds with the goal at his mercy.

Nevertheless, Ireland are now back on track and are established in fourth place in the Pool A table with three points.

Elsewhere yesterday, following their 5-1 victory over Ireland on Wednesday, the English scored another emphatic win over Egypt. They won 6-1 this time around through Simon and Richard Mantell (two), James Tindall, Jonty Clarke and Richard Alexander, and now comfortably lead Pool A with six points and a healthy goal difference.

Earlier in the day Belgium surprised everyone when they forced a last-gasp equaliser against Pakistan to shock the tournament favourites. Jerome Truyens’ goal right on the final hooter left the score at 2-2 and, following their uninspired 1-0 win over Canada on Wednesday, meant the Pakistanis are struggling uncharacteristically.

Such was their shock at the lateness of the Belgian equaliser they immediately made an official protest, but they did not lodge the necessary deposit and it was declared void.

The result put Belgium into second place on goal difference, although they are on four points with Pakistan.

The Pool A teams have a day off today while Japan take on Korea, China face Malaysia and New Zealand play France.

In Pool A tomorrow Ireland play Belgium, England play Canada and Pakistan face Egypt.

IRELAND: C. Henderson, P. Brown (Capt), J. Black, K. Burns, I. Lewers, S. Butler, M. Gleghorne, J. Jermyn, M. Black, P. Maguire, M. Irwin. Rolling subs: R. Gormley, J. Sherriff, G. Shaw, A. Barbour.

CANADA: M. Mahood, R. D’Abreo, M. Schole, M. Lee, K. Pereira, W. Fernandez, P. Short, R. Short, S. Sandison, C. Grimes, P. Wettlaufer. Rolling Subs: A. Wright, P. Wright, D. Jameson, R. Agnihotri, M. Pearson.

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