Euro Hockey League KO16: Harvestehuder 1-0 Uhlenhorst Mulheim.

A penalty stroke from Paul Pongs just before half time was enough to see Harvestehuder THC past their domestic rivals Uhlenhorst Mulheim in a very close affair. The game may have been lacking in goals but it was not lacking in quality as both sides displayed some excellent skill on the ball, and perhaps more noticeably, some outstanding defensive work. 

The first quarter was one of few chances as the two sides felt each other out. Michael Korper had his penalty corner well saved by Felix Reuss in the Mulehim goal and Benjamin Stranzl’s follow up was scrambled clear as Mulehim came under the first real threat. Andre Henning’s side probably had the better of the opening quarter but some solid defensive work from Tobias Hauke and the rest of the Harvestehuder backline kept them at bay. Their best opening came when Jan Fleckhaus broke into the D on the right, spinning the defender well before firing his reverse stick effort well over the bar.

The second quarter adopted much the same pattern. Reuss was equal to the task of keeping out another penalty corner from Korper and Jan Gehlen stung the palms of Tobias Walter in the Harvestehuder goal but still a breakthrough was proving elusive. Malte Hellwig showed good skills to cut in from the left but Walter was alive to the danger and snaked out a left foot to smother the chance.

Then came the pivotal moments of the match. At one end Jan Christopher Ruhr had a great chance to give Mulehiem the lead as he entered the D on the right with just the goalkeeper to beat. He lifted his shot goalwards but Walter got a glove to it to turn it away. Harvestehuder broke up the other end and won a penalty stroke which Pongs converted, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.

After half time Tobias Lietz did well to set up Tim Linsmeier in the D but his shot was well saved by Reuss. At the other end, the normally dependable Thilo Stralkowski hit the fence with a penalty corner and then wasted a great chance having muscled his way through, he scuffed his shot and allowed Walter to clear. Johan Bjorkman fizzed a reverse stick cross shot past the far post with two teammates sliding in as both teams searched for the all-important goal to swing the game in their favour.

Inside the opening exchanges of the final quarter Mulehim thought they’d equalised. Lukas Windfeder’s cross from the right was deflected into the goalkeeper’s body with Bendict Furk stabbing the rebound home. Harvestehuder asked for a video referral and were successful, getting the decision overturned for an attacker’s foot in the D.

Mulheim forced a penalty corner with seven minutes left but Fleckahus could not beat Walter who got down brilliantly to his right to turn it around the post. Reuss was replaced with a kicking back going into the last three minutes as Andre Henning took a gamble to try and rescue the tie. With a minute left they had a great chance to do just that. Stralkowski found himself with space in the D to shoot, but he could only hit the goalkeeper’s pads. Florian Scholten took a swing at the rebound but the umpire had already blown for a penalty corner. The corner was slipped to Johannes Schmitz but Hauke saw the danger and got across to block the shot and ensure Harvestehuder held on for the win.

It was hardly a classic, but with both sides displaying outstanding defensive prowess it is hardly a surprise. In the end, Harvestehuder took their best chance and Mulehim didn’t. There’s probably a joke about efficiency in there somewhere.

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