England assured themselves of a last 16 place and will top their group after a brilliant comeback from 2-0 down to Romania at the European Team Championships today.
Liam Pitchford saved three match points in the fourth match before going on to win, and Paul Drinkhall brought it home in the fifth tie. Tom Jarvis had earlier kick-started the comeback by taking the third match – all shown live on TTE.TV.
Having lost to the same opponents in the colours of Team GB at the European Games earlier this summer, the English players went in looking for revenge and knowing victory – having beaten Norway 3-1 in their first group match – would see them through in first place.
But it was their opponents who struck the first blows, Ovidiu Ionescu (WR 152) saving a game point in the opening game against Paul Drinkhall and taking it 13-11 and, after Drinkhall had levelled, taking the next two tight games.
Pitchford, who had sat out the match against Norway – he would have played the fifth match if required – then took on Eduard Ionescu, the younger but higher-ranked of the (unrelated) Ionescus at No 69.
Eduard won the opening game but Pitchford appeared to have wrestle the momentum away, only for his opponent to find a consistently high level in the third and fourth to put his country 2-0 ahead.
Jarvis knew his response would be crucial, and he showed fortitude to save three game points in the first before winning it 13-11. The second game saw his opponent Iulian Chirita (WR 163) get on a real roll as he won the first nine points on his way to an 11-2 blitz.
He continued that momentum by taking the first three points of the third game, but Jarvis then dramatically grabbed the initiative with eight straight points to set up an 11-7 victory. The fourth saw him keep Chirita at arm’s length as Jarvis completed his 3-1 victory.
Pitchford started well against Ovidiu Ionescu, taking the first 11-9 from 3-8 down – his opponent taking a very early timeout at 8-7.
The Romanian hit back to take the second 11-9 and the third 11-4, leaving England staring at defeat. The pivotal period had arrived and it looked as if Pitchford would win the fourth when he led 9-7, but he had to save match points at 9-10, 10-11 and 11-12 – the first aided by a net-cord and the third by an edge.
Such are the fine margins, and Ionescu showed his exasperation after the third of those match points passed him by.
He still had enough about him to save Pitchford’s first game point, but not the second as the Englishman took it 15-13.
The decider was tight to 6-6, but Pitchford put the next three points on the board. Back came Ionescu with two points, prompting the English timeout. It did the trick, and two more points meant England were level.
Drinkhall against Eduard Ionescu was the decider, and the Englishman’s experience was crucial. He took the first 11-7 and then five points in a row saw him take the second 11-9.
He led the third 10-8 and 11-0, but his opponent dug in to keep himself alive. But the fourth match point was taken and England had another memorable comeback to celebrate.
They will find out their last-16 opponents after the group stage concludes tomorrow.
Don’t forget, you can watch England women take on Austria in their second group match, live on TTE.TV on Tuesday evening.
How to watch
We are showing all the group-stage action on Table 2 live, including England women’s clash with Austria in the primetime 6pm slot on Tuesday.
From Thursday to Sunday (September 14-17) TTE.TV will switch to covering Table 1 as the knockout stages get under way with the last 16 and build to the medal matches on the Sunday.
Coverage of the European Team Championships with English commentary is part of our commitment to providing the best action on TTE.TV – which is free as part of membership to Table Tennis England.
If you are a member of Table Tennis England, the next time you visit TTE.TV, you will be prompted to link your account to your membership. Simply click on the box to get started, follow the instructions and then sign in to the Sport80 membership platform to complete the link. You can also link your account at any time, via a tab in your settings in TTE.TV.
England 3 Romania 2
Ovidiu Ionescu bt Paul Drinkhall 3-1 (13-11, 8-11, 11-8, 12-10)
Eduard Ionescu bt Liam Pitchford 3-1 (11-8, 8-11, 11-5, 11-6)
Tom Jarvis bt Iulian Chitita 3-1 (13-11, 2-11, 11-7, 11-4)
Pitchford bt Ovidiu Ionescu 3-2 (11-9, 9-11, 4-11, 15-13, 11-8)
Drinkhall bt Eduard Ionescu 3-0 (11-7, 11-9, 13-11)