Chesterfield’s Liam Pitchford gives England hope

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Liam Pitchford’s victory gave England hope of turning around their European Championships qualifying play-off but they still have a lot to do following their 3-1 home defeat to Slovakia.

Pitchford beat world No 64 Wang Yang 3-2 (11-5, 7-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-8) to make it 1-1 after Paul Drinkhall had lost 3-1 to Lubomir Pistej, but defeats for Sam Walker against Peter Sereda and Drinkhall to Yang left England with a 3-1 deficit for next week’s second leg.

The Chesterfield world No 49 said: “We knew it was going to be tough. Wang Yang is a good player and the other two we know are good players who are awkward to play against.

“I think I played quite well and obviously being 3-1 down is better than 3-0.

It’s not what we wanted but we’re still in it and we’ll go there next week and hopefully play a bit better.”

The winning nation will qualify for the top division at the European Championships in Luxembourg later this year while the losing side will drop into the second tier.