Ireland’s women took on the world number 7’s Spain in the first of a triple header weekend in Valencia. The Irish girls took to the pitch in the searing heat where temperatures hit 35 degrees.
Spain started the match immediately applying pressure, using the full press to great effect and squeezing Ireland back into their own end for minutes at a time. The early Spanish pressure paid off when a ball came loose at the top of the Irish circle, allowing Raquel Huertas the chance for a first time strike which she sweetly struck for a one nil lead in the 9th minute.
Just one minute later Spain looked sure to double their lead when they earned the first penalty corner of the game but for an excellent save from Stewart who denied the drag effort plucking it high from the line. Ireland’s first real opportunity only came in the 23rd when excellent work from Small set up Cregan for the deflection but the ball just skimmed the end of her stick denying Ireland the equalizer.
Spain’s second came in the 26th minute when Julia Mendez was gifted space to dribble into the top right of the circle and flick the ball over a sliding Gray in goals for a 2-0 lead just before half time.
Ireland started stronger in the second half applying pressure of their own but the first Spanish attack lead to their third goal when Nuria Camon cut in from the left to set herself up for a strike at goal on the 41st minute. Two minutes later Clarke showed some magic in midfield when she stole from the Spanish to set up Frazer for a strike, but her efforts flew wide of the goal.
Spain copper fastened their victory in the 48th minute when a free in from the right of the circle led to a goal mouth scramble which Ester Termens got on the end for Spain’s fourth and final goal. Ireland had their chance at a consolation goal in the 61st minute winning a penalty corner but Frazer’s efforts were saved.
Ireland will have two more matches to improve their performance and get used to the heat as the play Spain.
Commenting after the game Coach Muller said “Our structure was good, but we were off the pace of the game. They got two of their goals from soft turnovers and that was disappointing as it deflates effort and tension. We will look to improve that part of the game in the remaining two matches.”
Spain – Ireland 4-0 (2-0)
Goals Spain: Raquel Huertas 9m; Julia Mendez 26m; Nuria Camon 41m ; Ester Termens 48m
Source: Irish Hockey Association