Irish Paralympic soccer team suffers semi-final pain
Ireland 2-3 Netherlands
The Irish Paralympic soccer team suffered a heart-breaking extra time 3-2 defeat this afternoon against the Netherlands in the CPISRA European Championship semi-final in Maia, Portugal.
Ireland will now face the losers of the other semi-final which features the top two ranked teams in the world; Ukraine v Russia, in the play off for bronze on Saturday afternoon.
Despite a lively start from the Irish a lapse at the back allowed Netherlands take the lead on eighteen minutes, and they followed up with a second minutes later to force Ireland into chasing the game. Netherlands set about protecting their lead in the second half but the Irish team attacked from the off spending the early stages almost fully in the Dutch half, Gary Messet orchestrating things from midfield.
Substitute Dillon Sherdian made a real impact scoring Ireland's first goal on forty nine minutes with a great long range strike. Tireless work by the entire Irish side led by captain Luke Evans led to numerous chances on goal throughout the remainder of the half. However it wasn't until the last minute of added time in normal time that a Dutch hand ball in the box gave Ireland a chance to equalise when they were awarded a penalty. Captain Luke Evans coolly converted to send the game into extra time.
Although both sides tired Ireland had the majority of chances throughout the first period of extra time through Sheridan, Evans and great link play by Messett and Cotter. With a little over five minutes to go however miscommunication in the Irish box during a Dutch attack led to an unfortunate own goal from Ireland's Gary Messett which was to seal the 3-2 for Netherlands and see them progress to the final.
Speaking after the match Irish captain Luke Evans said: "It was a good open game of football but to be honest our own mistakes led to our downfall; bad decision making at key times. We did everything we could to get back into it in the second half, we threw the kitchen sink at it, but that's football; highs and lows. We just have to deal with it and try and move on. We've another game to play in this tournament so we just need to try and pick ourselves up for that."
This Irish team is currently ranked sixth in the world, and fourth in Europe behind Ukraine, Russia and Holland respectively, following an impressive fourth place finish at the CPISRA Intercontinental Cup last year. Russia are the current Paralympic champions from London 2012 with Ukraine the number one ranked team in the world at the moment, and former Paralympic champions from Beijing 2008.