Wales vs. Turkey
The second day of the EuroHockey Championships II has two games from Pool A. First up is Wales against Turkey, both of whom lost their opening games yesterday. I spoke to the Welsh Beth Bingham yesterday, after the game against Italy and she was telling me that her team are aiming to reach the semi finals of this tournament. If that is to be achieved then a win against Turkey will be important. Anything less than a draw for either team will mean that they are destined for Pool C, which Is where the bottom two teams from Pool A and Pool B end up for classification rankings. It will also be, basically, a four way relegation playoff as the bottom two teams from Pool C drop down into the third tier of European hockey. Three points today will be a long way to preventing that from happening. I find out today that Xenna Hughes is the daughter of former Manchester United, Barcelona and Chelsea player and Wales football manager, Mark Hughes, who is in the stands today, to support his protege.
There’s a celebratory moment straight away. Sarah Jones forces her way through the Turkish defence, past two or three players and pushes the ball beyond the keeper, to open the scoring for Wales. We’ve only played 17 seconds and it’s one nil already. Within two minutes of the goal the Welsh are striding past defenders again and only a stick save from the keeper prevents Phoebe Richards from adding a second. This doesn’t deter the Turks, though, and they are up the other end testing the rigidity of Rose Thomas’s pads. Both teams are giving it ago.
In the first ten minutes or so, the Welsh have been slightly more dominant, getting away a few more shots on goal, but Turkey aren’t smarting too hard from their heavy defeat yesterday and are looking to get something out of this game. Wales, however, are finding spaces going forward with greater ease then their opposition. With just over two minutes left of the period, the first short corner of the game is awarded to the Eurasians. It had been worked from a free hit on the left of their own half and won on the right of the Welsh circle. It’s deflected wide, though. After 15 minutes the score is Wales 1 – 0 Turkey.
Wales nearly score quickly after the restart again. The ball is shunted into the circle and it causes confusion. It takes a deflection and trickles just wide of the post. An untidy tackle from a Turkish defender gives away a short corner. Number eight Sinem Alpakan breaks early and is sent to the half way line. The retake sees a variation, but the shot is sent straight into a planked keeper and the rebound is put into the side netting. In the ninth minute a Turkish player is shown a green, shortly followed by her compatriot Gulcan Firat. The Turks only have nine players on the pitch and Wales are dominating possession, but they are forcing the passes and are perhaps playing too directly and turning over the ball over a lot. Turkey are also looking more organised then they did yesterday. There has, I suspect, been some time spent watching videos of the first game and have shored up a few of the defensive issues. At half time the score remains 1 – 0.
Goal difference could be important for where teams finish in their group, especially after Poland beat Turkey by six goals yesterday. Wales might want to be more decisive here. The game restarts and Wales are just that. Within a minute the ball is worked into the circle and a tomahawk from Phoebe Richards goes into the top corner to double the lead; Wales 2 – 0 Turkey.
Turkey’s Perihan Küçükkoç, who had a comparatively good game yesterday, has been fairly quiet today. However, in the fifth minute of the second half she forces her way through a double Welsh challenge and moves into the circle. She takes a touch into the circle and puts it into the bottom corner. This is Turkey’s first goal of the tournament, making the number 10 her countries top scorer in Glasgow and cuts the deficit in half.
In the ninth minute, Wales almost steal a goal. Lucky number 13, Danni Jordan, puts high pressure on the Turkish sweeper inside her own area, as she tries to pass to the her right back. Jordan stretches to make the interception. The ball comes off of her stick, hits the post and rolls across the line of the goal, but not over it. Wales are pressing quite high consistently now. With a little under three minutes before quarter time to go, they get another short corner. Jones injects but the umpire insist on a retake. A sweep from top circle is deflected and the Elif Küpeli, in the Turkish goal, claws it out of the air; Wales 2 – 1 Turkey at the end if the third quarter.
Wales start the match periods strongly. This time scoring a little over three minutes after the start of the fourth quarter. The ball is worked into the circle and Danni Jordan gets the final touch. A foot in the Turkish circle give Wales another short corner. This time it’s a sweep that hits the post. Shortly afterwards, Jones starts a move off in her own area, finding Jordan, who pivots and sends the ball to the left. Xenna Hughes picks it up and drives into the circle. Scuffs the shot, but it slides past the keeper to make it four goals to one. A lovely passing move that cut through the Turkish defence. Their earlier organisation seems to be going by the way side. With two and a half minutes to go, the Welsh get a penalty corner again. It’s played out to the top and slipped to the captain Leah Wilkinson. She takes a touch for the angle and finds the far post with her reverse stick. This represents the final noteworthy action and the final score is Wales 5 – 1 Turkey.
In a conversation with Sarah Jones after the match, she was telling me that she felt that we saw a better Wales in the second half then the first. The Great Britain international talks about how if a team senses that there are goals to be scored, then an eagerness to, perhaps, be too direct. When the Welsh were more patient and used the width and created overloads, then this is when the successful moments occurred. Head coach, Kevin Johnson backs this sentiment up, telling me that he enjoyed things better when the ball was played wide, rather than through the middle into the crowded areas. Johnson talks fondly of his team’s fitness level and says that this also had a positive effect in the final stages of the game.