|May 1st, 2012|
|11||Pool A||4:00pm||AZE - JPN||1 - 4 (1 - 3)||Final|
Azerbaijan 1, Japan 4
Top-seeded Japan now has the upper hand at the Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament after beating second-seeded Azerbaijan, 4-1, in round robin action. The win gives the Japanese 10 points in four games, and all but books the hosts a place in Saturday’s final. Azerbaijan has nine points and will play Chile on Thursday in a game that will likely determine the second finalist.
In what could be a preview for Saturday’s final, today’s game was a well-balanced affair despite the relatively lopsided 4-1 result. In fact, it was Azerbaijan that spent most of the time in the Japanese zone in the second half, but creating very few meaningful scoring opportunities despite the proximity of the Japan net.
Azerbaijan silenced the crowd when Taejeong Han put a shot into the upper left corner to take a 1-0 lead just six minutes into the game. Six minutes later, Japan’s Ai Murukami easily converted a penalty stroke chance to get Japan on the board and tie the game at one.
The game stayed deadlocked until Miyuki Nakagawa put in the go-ahead goal 11 minutes later. It was one of two goals from Nakagawa, who also scored the only goal of the second half with 12 minutes to go in the game. The other Japanese goal scorer was Sachimi Iawo, who got the key 3-1 goal with eight minutes left in the first half to give Japan some breathing room before the break.
Azerbaijan competed well today, but simply could not finish on the chances that they had. Japan’s finesse and speed were the key to getting back to the top of the round robin standings.
Japan definitely has the easier assignment on the last day of round robin play on Thursday with a meeting against Belarus, which is currently fourth in the standings. Azerbaijan will take on third-place Chile. The Chileans have seven points and with a win on Thursday, could leap ahead of Azerbaijan in the standings.