Bhubaneswar: An austerely defensive China, for the second straight time, held a higher-ranked team from Pool B. With a 1-1 draw against Ireland on Tuesday here, the second-lowest ranked team in the World Cup has kept alive its chances of qualifying for the knockouts.
China, especially in the first two quarters, were overprotective of their penalty circle; only thrice they ventured into the Irish circle.
The Irish defenders, in the second quarter, tried luring them into their half by passing the ball amongst themselves for a two-minute stretch. But China, like a muskellunge refusing to take the bait, frustrated Ireland and forced them to abandon the wait.
Ireland had significantly more possession (62% to China’s 38%), 16 circle penetrations (to China’s three) and five shots at goal, but couldn’t score. “It was a busy first half. We created a lot of chances. We will look to convert in the second half,” said their coach Alexander Cox during the half-time break.
In the third quarter, Ireland altered their midfield to attack more. But, the move having not paid any dividends hitherto, they grew impatient. Jonathan Bell earned a yellow card for a rough tackle on E Wenhui, two minutes before the quarter ended, and conceding China a penalty corner.
And, China scored. After Jun Su pushed the ball and Nan Meng trapped it, Talake Du – instead of flicking or striking the ball – dragged it counterclockwise, setting up for Jin Guo’s drag-flick. The magic trick worked. Guo’s flick, before Ireland were fully aware, pounded into the top-right corner of the net.
Ireland, despite playing with 10 men, bounced back into the game a minute later. Michael Robson’s tomahawk from the left was deflected into the net by Alan Sothern. The fourth quarter witnessed a repeat of the first half, wherein Ireland sought a goal in desperation and China retreating to their half, denying them.