EuroHockey 2013: Ireland draw puts England into semi-finals

By Ollie WilliamsBBC Olympic sports reporter in Boom, Belgium
England into semis after Ireland draw

England's men survived a fightback from Ireland to book a place in the EuroHockey semi-finals with a 2-2 draw.

Ireland needed a win to deprive England of the semi-final place but came up short despite two second-half penalty strokes from Shane O'Donoghue.

Tom Carson scored a first-half brace for England before the Irish fightback.

"We knew it was going to be tight. They're a good team and we pulled through, just," said England's Dan Fox.

England, ranked fourth in the world, will face hosts Belgium in Friday's semi-final after they drew 2-2 with Spain.

The second semi will see Germany face the Netherlands.

Ireland captain John Jackson said: "To give England - a team with that experience in big games - a two-nil lead, it's a difficult ask to come back.

"But I think it was a valiant effort from us in the second half. I think we were the only team that was going to get the winner."

Carson deflected David Condon's shot home then lifted a close-range finish past Ireland keeper David Harte as England cruised to a two-goal lead.

But England also lost their video referral early in the game, later paying the price as Ireland were twice awarded penalty strokes which the English could not challenge. O'Donoghue smartly converted both and Ireland poured forward in search of a late winner.

Exuberant celebrations from England goalkeeper George Pinner at the final whistle, to the ire of some Irish players, spoke of English relief at the result.

However, they did not emerge from the game entirely unscathed - captain Barry Middleton will have an x-ray on a suspected broken finger picked up in the first half.

"The Euros is a huge event for us," Fox told BBC Sport. "Even though I've been to the Olympics, this is my first Euros and it's the same for another 11 members of the squad.

"We're desperate to get a medal and, if we can, reach the final."

Ireland, ranked 15th in the world, head into the relegation pool, where Jackson believes his team can still demonstrate the progress of Irish hockey.

"For us, to finish fifth is the next target. That will hopefully bump us up a couple of places in the world rankings," he said.

"It's a process to get into the top 10, and to finish fifth would be a success for us."

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