Brave Scots lose narrowly to Italy in World League

Katie Holmes celebrates pulling a goal back for Scotland during the 2-1 defeat by Italy at the Women's Hockey World League tie in Brussels. Picture: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images for FIH
Katie Holmes celebrates pulling a goal back for Scotland during the 2-1 defeat by Italy at the Women's Hockey World League tie in Brussels. Picture: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images for FIH
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Scotland coach Gordon Shepherd billed yesterday’s crucial pool match against Italy at the World League in Brussels as a must-win event, but unfortunately his charges went down 2-1 and face a tough task to qualify for the quarter-finals and a place in the World Cup finals next year.

Despite the Italian reversal the Scots have ironically moved up from bottom slot to fourth on goal difference after Korea were thumped 9-0 by the Netherlands.

Scotland’s chances of making it through now rest with their final pool match against Korea today, and only a win will guarantee their progress.

The Scots were caught cold in the opening exchanges, when after only two minutes a penalty corner strike by Agata Wybieralska seemed to take a deflection off a Scottish player’s stick and flew past Amy Gibson to put the Italians a goal up.

Five minutes later Italy doubled their score when Jasbeer Singh deflected the ball past Gibson.

Just before the interval the Scots created their first chance when the ball fell to Ali Howie but her shot flew just wide of the target.

The Scots started the second half the brighter side, the best chance fell to Becky Merchant and Kareena Cuthbert but their combined efforts could not force the ball over the line.

Shepherd’s charges were suddenly back in the contest, persistent work by Ali Howie won a penalty corner, Cuthbert’s shot was deflected on by Howie and Katie Holmes was on hand to finish from close range.

Just before the end of the third quarter the Scots had the chance to level but Katie Robertson’s shot went wide of the target.

With five minutes left Shepherd took the gamble of replacing Gibson with an additional outfield player. The tactic seemed to have backfired when the Italians were awarded a penalty, but the decision was finally overturned on a video referral.

In the final minutes the Scots came close to saving the game but the Italians held out.