(Photo: © EHL / Frank Uijlenbroek)

KO16 Rotterdam Day 3: RC de Polo de Barcelona and Amsterdam H&BC became the first teams to book places in the Euro Hockey League semi finals on a wonderful day of action in Rotterdam. Taeke Taekema’s Amsterdam side battled past a resilient KHC Leuven side thanks to a last minute goal from Netherland’s star Valentin Verga. However, the biggest result of both the day and this season’s Euro Hockey League came when RC Polo eliminated tournament favourites Rot-Weiss Köln, with Pau Quemada’s 67th minute goal sealing a famous victory against a team featuring seven Olympic gold medalists. The full reports can be found below, with video highlights available on www.ehlhockey.tv

EHL Quarter Final 1:
RC de Polo de Barcelona (ESP) 3-2 Rot-Weiss Köln (GER)

Pau Quemada hit a late winner for his RC Polo team as they recorded the biggest shock so far of the 2009-10 Euro Hockey League season by eliminating German champions and EHL favourites Rot-Weiss Köln.  The Spanish international defected in from close range in the 67th minute to seal a famous win and book their place at EHL Final Four.

The first quarter was an end to end encounter, with RC Polo giving the all-stars of Rot-Weiss a serious run for their money. The Spanish outfit were awarded a penalty stroke when Pau Quemada appeared to be brought down by Paul Robert Kupper, but the decision was ruled out by a referral to the video umpire who saw no foul.  Rot-Weiss stepped up their game towards the end of the period, and won a penalty corner just before the break. Germany super-striker Christopher Zeller may have been well below his best in Thursdays match against Ireland’s Pembroke Wanderers, but he made no mistake with his first effort of the day which flew into the top corner of goal to give his team a 1-0 lead.

RC Polo drew level moments before the end of the second quarter, although it was not a Spanish stick that made the decisive touch. An “own goal” was awarded when Alex Fabregas fired a dangerous cross into the circle from the right which flew into net via deflections from Philipp Zeller and Rot-Weiss goalkeeper Max Weinhold to level the scores at half time.

Rot-Weiss threatened early in the third quarter when Tibor Weissenborn unleashed a ferocious reverse stick shot from the top of the circle that was palmed away by RC Polo keeper Oriol Fabregas, but a penalty corner won by Philipp Zeller meant trouble for the Spanish outfit. Christopher Zeller stepped up to score his second goal from two attempts, giving the Germans a 2-1 lead. Zeller almost made the score 3-1 when he slammed another penalty corner effort against the right post, as Rot-Weiss threatened to run riot.

The German champions seemed to be in control of the early stages of the final quarter, but the match was turned on its head when Gabriel Dabanch – son of RC Polo manager Jorge Dabanch – scored a brilliant equalizer from close range, setting up a thrilling finish to the match. The decisive goal arrived just three minutes from the end of the match when Spanish international striker Pau Quemada scored Barcelona’s second close range deflection to give RC Polo the lead for the very first time. Despite late pressure from Rot-Weiss, the goal proved to be enough to spark wild celebrations from the RC Polo team. The team had eliminated the tournament favourites, reaching their first ever EHL Semi Final.

EHL Quarter Final 2: Amsterdam H&BC (NED) 3-2 KHC Leuven (BEL)

Valentin Verga became the hero of the day for Amsterdam H&BC when he scored a 69th minute winner to defeat Belgium's KHC Leuven 3-2. The victory gives the famous old club their first ever appearance in EHL Final Four, the tournament which will crown the winners of this year's Euro Hockey League.

Amsterdam opened the scoring in only the second minute from a penalty corner, when Netherlands defender Taeke Taekema slipped a pass to Don Prins who launched the ball into the net. 1-0 soon became 2-0 when another penalty corner variation was finished off by Don Prins. Amsterdam were by far the superior side in the opening period, but KHC Leuven were given a life-line by Fabrice Bourdeaud’Hui – a medical doctor by trade – who hit a spectacular strike into the top right corner of the goal to make the score 2-1 at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter saw Taeke Taekema send a penalty corner wide of the target when many expected the net to bulge, before the Dutchmen had a strong appeal for a penalty corner turned down when Don Prins appeared to be fouled by Leuven goalkeeper Laurent Dierickx. Prins, Robert Tigges and Valentin Verga were in tremendous form, causing no end of problems for the Leuven defence, but the Belgians were not without the chances with Bourdeaud’Hui and Mitch Darling looking dangerous.

Following a goal-less second period dominated by Amsterdam, a more confident and attacking KHC Leuven team stepped onto the field for the third quarter. The Belgians caused big problems for their illustrious opponents, and would have grabbed an equalizer were it not for a moment of brilliant goalkeeping from Klass Veering who made a stunning stick save from Fabrice Bourdeaud’Hui powerful low shot. Eventually, Leuven scored a deserved equalizer when Argentina midfielder Juane Garreta’s low penalty corner flick was forced into the net by the sliding Mitch Darling to set up a thrilling finale to the match.

The game swung from end to end in the final quarter, with both sides having decent chances to win the match. However, the real drama began in the final three minutes of the match when Don Prins and Fabrice Bourdeaud’Hui both received Yellow Cards before the game’s deciding moment arrived in the 69th minute. A slick move down the left saw a quick interchange of passes before Amsterdam midfielder Valentin Verga forced the ball over the line from close range. Despite a late chance from Patrice Houssein flashing wide of the target, Verga’s late strike was enough to seal victory for Amsterdam. The team celebrated with their Spanish striker Santi Freixa, who has been out of action since last August due to a damaged knee but could be fit in time for Amsterdam’s EHL semi final clash in May. 

The Euro Hockey League website is providing extensive online coverage of the tournament, including free Live Streaming and video highlights of every single game. To find out more information and watch match videos from the first two days, visit www.ehlhockey.tv

EHL KO8 (Quarter Final) Results – Sunday 4 April 2010

RC Polo Barcelona (ESP) 3-2 Rot-Weiss Köln (GER)
Man of the Match Presented by ABN AMRO: Christopher Zeller – Rot-Weiss Köln

Amsterdam H&BC (NED) 3-2 KHC Leuven (BEL)
Man of the Match Presented by ABN AMRO: Fabrice Bourdeaud’Hui - KHC Leuven

Fixtures – Monday 5th April 2010
12:00 – H.C. Rotterdam (NED) v Atlétic Terrassa (ESP)
14:30 – HC Bloemendaal (NED) v UHC Hamburg (GER)
All times listed are local (Central European Standard Time)