Ireland come from behind to deny Spain and keep alive bid for best EuroHockey finish

For the 13th-ranked team it would represent a fine achievement for Sean Dancer’s side

Ireland women came from behind to deny Spain in an entertaining 2-2 draw yesterday and keep alive their bid for a best EuroHockey Championship finish.

Roisin Upton’s penalty corner strike 11 minutes from time left Ireland needing a win over Italy today in their final play-off game to equal their previous best finish of fifth.

For the 13th-ranked team here, that would represent a fine achievement. Sean Dancer’s side might even have snatched a win – their first against Spain in the Euros for 36 years – had Maria Ruiz not saved brilliantly to deny Naomi Carroll’s deflected shot from a late penalty corner.

Upton said: “We started well and the game got away from us a little bit and Spain capitalised. When you are 2-1 down going into the last quarter, that English game [opening 3-0 defeat] still sits heavy in our tummies.

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“We said that we wanted to play every single minute of this tournament with intensity and aggression. We managed to finish strong and created chances so we will take the draw.”

Spain were the first to earn a short corner but their set piece – a drag out wide to find a deflection – went wide. With the next passage of play, Ireland tried their own disguised variation and it paid off handsomely.

Caitlin Sherin feigned her shot and stepped over for Caoimhe Purdue, who slapped into a crowded circle and Sarah McAuley got the crucial deflection.

As half-time loomed, Spain missed a golden chance to equalise when Patricia Alvarez, with space in the circle, shot straight at Ayeisha McFerran’s pads.

Moments later, Mullan laid on the perfect pass to give Carroll the opportunity for the first of her diving efforts. Her angled deflection was brilliantly saved by Ruiz.

Spain, who have reached the last two semi-finals, started the third quarter at pace. Their first corner thudded into Mullan’s foot which left her grounded for several moments before returning to the line.

This time, Spain dragged out wide and Candela Mejias had time to lift high past Lizzie Murphy, who had once again replaced McFerran at half-time.

Five minutes later, Belen Iglesias deflected high into the net from a direct hit and another well-worked penalty corner.

Ireland proved the better side in the final quarter, led by the impressive Mullan. When she was felled inside the Spanish 23m, Alejandra Torres-Quevedo was handed a five-minute yellow card and Upton slapped in the resulting penalty corner goal, the fourth of this contest.

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