Belfius EuroHockey Championships
Men’s Pool A: Spain 2 (P Quemada, D Arana) England 2 (S Ward, A Jackson)
Spain got a vital draw which puts them within touching distance of the semi-finals of the European Championships for the first time since 2009, dropping England into the relegation pool.
England started well, leading through Sam Ward’s first half goal but Pau Quemada and Diego Arana turned things around in the third quarter and while Ashley Jackson equalised, Spain clung on for the result they needed.
Both sides were content to sit in a deep, half-court press in the first quarter with openings limit other than an excellent piece of work from Phil Roper. It ended with Chris Griffiths’ close range being brilliantly blocked by Quico Cortes.
Cortes’ counterpart at the far end Harry Gibson had to be alert in the 16th minute when Enrique Gonzalez pinched possession in the circle as Spain transferred to a more aggressive press.
England went in front from a pitch length move, Ashley Jackson picking up a long aerial on halfway and setting Zach Wallace on the move. The first attack was repelled but Ward was alert as always to quickly poke back over Cortes for 1-0.
Spain, however, turned the game in their favour in the third quarter. Pau Quemada equalised from close in when Gibson could not get enough of a clearance to the striker’s light initial shot.
And they went in front when Joan Tarres produced a bit of 3D wizardry and his bounce-shot went into the turf, rising up and over Gibson to the waiting Arana to tap in.
The red sticks could have made the game safe from the penalty spot but Xavi Lleonart – after long delay of debating a decision in the build-up to the decision – hit the crossbar.
It left the door open a crack for England who still needed two goals to go through. And their chase began in earnest in the last ten minutes when one penalty corner push was saved off the line but the next went into the roof of the goals from Jackson’s stick.
They camped in the Spanish circle from then on, Josep Romeu needing to make a desperate interception in the goalmouth. But England could not find the final chance to change things around and Spain closed out the result they needed.
Miki Delas – along with Lleonart, Cortes and Sergi Enrique – was part of the team 10 years ago who reached the semis before.
He said afterwards: “it was a really strong fight. We knew they were going full gas and our goal was to manage that situation. We could have changed the structure of the game with the stroke for 3-1 but it wasn’t to be.
“But after fighting many years really hard, always coming close, we must savour this moment and now look to get an even bigger result. For now, we are really proud of ourselves.
“In 2009 in Amsterdam, I was only a teenager! The feeling is great; it is a place where every sportsman wants to be!”
As for how far the side can go in the competition: “You never know. We will rest now and see what comes our way.”
Umpires: S Duterme (BEL), B Goentgen (GER)
Spain – England
21’ Sam Ward (FG) 0-1
33’ Pau Quemada (FG) 1-1
43’ Diego Arana (FG) 2-1
52’ Ashley Jackson (PC) 2-2