KHC Dragons grabbed a precious win in their opening Pool B clash against St Germain. With Reading the other side in this pool it has all the makings of the traditional “Group of Death” so a win was of vital importance for these two sides.
After a cagey opening dominated by long spells of Dragons’ possession St Germain took the lead. Jean-Baptiste Pauchet had crept into the D unnoticed and when the ball fell to him just in from the baseline he calmly slapped the ball home to the delight of the noisy French fans in the stands.
KHC continued to dominate possession as the French side seemed content to defend deep and then hit them on the break. Jeffrey Thys went close but was kept out by Julien Thamin in the St Germain goal.
With time running out in the quarter Dragons drew level, Loick Luypaert fizzed a drag flick into the net which seemed to deceive Thamin who seemed to go to his right when the ball went to his left.
In the second quarter both sides were still very evenly matched, Thamin made a good save at his near post, whilst Arthur Van Doren was catching the eye for Dragons with some superb defending and some dangerous raids down the left hand side.
Timothee Delauriere had a great chance to give his side the lead but connected only with fresh air. At the other end Cobbaert did well to get round the back but Thamin smothered the chance and cleared. Dragons had a penalty corner charged down as St Germain were putting everything into staying in the game.
On the stroke of half time St Germain had a penalty corner of their own. Two men slid in at the far post but were unable to get a telling touch and the ball went wide.
The second half remained cagey. The French support were doing their best to inspire their team, with shouts of “Allez” ringing out almost continuously, however Dragons were still dominating possession.
Mathew Cobbaert was denied by a good save from Thamin off a penalty corner and Stephen Butler was kept out from a shot from open play as Dragons continued to build pressure.
With the fourth quarter failing to catch fire the crowd were looking towards a share of the points. With time running out Jeffrey Thys reacted the quickest to a rare loose ball in the D and pounced to slot home what turned out to be the winner.
St Germain threw the kitchen sink at Dragons as they attempted to get back on terms. Gerome Branquart had a golden chance to equalise as he found time and space at the top of the D. He opted to push rather than hit and Emmanuel Leroy saved comfortably. The French side tried in vain to get a penalty corner from a referral but KHC held on for a precious win.
KHC face Reading tomorrow in their second match whilst St Germain will play the same opponents on Sunday.