Japan is into the gold medal game at the Electric Ireland FIH Champions Challenge 1 after a dramatic 3-2 extra time win against Spain.
Rika Komazawa scored twice in regulation, but it was Ai Murakami’s penalty corner eight minutes into extra time that sealed the victory for the Japanese team. Overall, the Japanese tactic throughout the game was to use their speed to attack the Spaniards and it was executed to perfection. Japan controlled the tempo of the game from the first minute while Spain seemed content to lay back in wait for its chances.
Komazawa put in the 1-0 goal from the field 10 minutes into action. The lead stood through more than 40 minutes until Spain sparked to life in the 51st minute when Berta Bonastre tied the game at one. Three minutes later Rocio Ybarra gave Spain its first lead of the game on the penalty corner.
The lead set up a back-and-forth flurry as both teams pressed for the win late in the second period. It looked like Spain would pull off its second playoff round upset of the tournament until Komazawa struck with three minutes left in regulation to send the game into extra time.
Japan dominated the extra time and finally was rewarded on its second penalty corner chance when Murakami’s shot went off the goaltender and high into the net.
Japan spot in the final game is a bit of a surprise as the team finished the preliminary round in third place. Nevertheless, today’s victory was technically not an upset as Spain was the fourth-place finisher in its group. The Japanese now await the winner of this afternoon’s Scotland-USA game in the gold medal game.