The Pool phase of the Women’s Champions Challenge II, currently taking place in the beautiful Austrian capital city Vienna, has come to an end, with Belarus and Chile securing important victories on Day 3 to top their respective groups.
The standings in Pool B were settled in the first matches of the day, with Malaysia and Russia claiming their first points of the tournament with a 2-2 draw before Belgium and Belarus went into battle to decide who would claim that all-important first place finish. Belarus emerged as victors, fighting back from a 2-1 half time deficit to claim a fully deserved 2-3 success thanks to strikes from Yuliya Mikheichyk and Nadzeya Silitskaya, the latter of which arrived in the dying seconds of a thrilling match. A draw would have been enough to confirm Belgium as Pool winners due to their superior goal difference.
That result ensured that Belarus maintained their 100% win record in the competition and sealed top spot in Pool B, meaning that they would face the fourth-ranked team from Pool A in the Quarter Finals. That unenviable role will be carried out by host nation Austria, who finished bottom of Pool A thanks to a third successive tournament defeat at the hands of Chile. The Chileans were in sparkling form against the home nation, with Denise Infante netting twice in a 5-1 win that sealed first place in Pool A. That match was preceded by a hard fought meeting between Italy and Canada, with Italy taking a 2-1 win courtesy of a 62nd minute strike from team captain Francesca Faustini. The Italian triumph saw the side move temporarily into top spot in Pool A before Chile’s emphatic victory over Austria.
The tournament Quarter Finals begin on Thursday at 10am, with Pool A winners Chile doing battle with Russia, who finished fourth in Pool B. Pool B runners up Belgium will take to the field at 12:30 where they will face the third placed team in Pool A, Canada. At 15:00, Pool A runners up Italy will take on Malaysia, who finished third in Pool B. The final match of the day begins at 17.30, with Pool B winners Belarus playing Pool A’s fourth ranked team, Austria.
More information about the matches can be read below. To view all match sheets and tournament information, click here
Match 09: Malaysia 2, Russia 2:
Following an unsuccessful start to their Champions Challenge II campaigns, Malaysia and Russia claimed their first points of the tournament in an entertaining 2-2 draw.
Russia opened the scoring in the 12th minute when captain Svetlana Grigoryeva fired in from open play. Malaysia fought back hard and restored parity thanks to a 26th minute field goal from Siti Rahmah Othman before team captain Nadia Abdul Rahman established a 2-1 lead just before half time. Russia’s Kristina Shumilina was given a yellow card moments from the end of the half, but her team regained their composure in the second half and went in search of an equalizer. With just four minutes of the match remaining, it was Shumilina who went from villain to hero when she levelled the scores for Russia and completed the match scoring.
The result gives both sides confidence ahead of Thursday’s quarter final matches, where Malaysia face Pool A runners up Italy and Russia play Pool A winners Chile.
Match 10: Belgium 2, Belarus 3:
Belarus ensured that they would finish top of Pool B by battling back from a 2-1 half time deficit to claim an impressive 3-2 win over Belgium. The top-of-the-table clash was a hugely entertaining contest, full of drama, fast-flowing hockey and a dramatic last minute twist.
Belarus took just seven minutes to score the game’s opening goal, which came from the stick of team captain Alesia Piotukh. Five minutes later, Belgium where level when Emilie Sinia struck home to make the score 1-1. Sinia claimed her second goal of the match just before half time, establishing a 2-1 lead for Belgium with another open play strike.
The Belarusians were unlucky to go into the break a goal down, but the Belgian defence was proving to be a tough nut to crack. However, Belarus grabbed a leveller seven minutes into the second half when Yulia Mikheichyk found the target with a field goal to put her team firmly in the driving seat. The Belarus search for a winning goal received a big blow when Hannah Zabrotskaya was shown a yellow card in the 63rd minute, reducing her team to ten players until she returned to the field shortly before the end of the game. Now back to full strength, Belarus pressed hard in the hope of finding a winning goal that would move them above their opponents in the Pool B standings. Incredibly, it arrive with just seconds of the match remaining, with Nadzeya Silitskaya forcing the ball home to secure top spot in Pool B.
The result means that Belarus will now face a quarter final match against Austria, who finished fourth in Pool A. Belgium will take on Canada, Pool A’s third-ranked team.
Match 11: Italy 2, Canada 1:
Italy captain Francesca Faustini scored the winning goal for her team in a 2-1 victory over Canada. The win moved Italy temporarily to the top of Pool A, and ensured that they could finish no worse than second in the Pool ahead of the quarter finals.
Macarena Ronsisvalli slammed in a penalty corner to give Italy the lead ten minutes into the game. It was to be a goal that would separate the sides until well into the second half, when Canada hit back with a penalty corner of their own thanks to a strike from Stephanie Jameson. However, nine minutes from time Faustini scored what proved to be the winning goal, although her celebrations were tarnished in the final minute when she was shown a yellow card.
Despite this, Faustini’s strike was enough to give Italy their second win of the tournament as well as a boost ahead of their quarter final match against Malaysia on Thursday. Canada will face Belgium, the runners up in Pool B.
Match 12: Chile 5, Austria 1:
Austria were torn apart by a rampant and determined Chile team clearly motivated by their desire to top Pool A. They achieved their aim in superb style, with Denise Infante netting twice in the rout.
Chile claimed their first goal in the ninth minute when Christine Fingerhuth found the target from open play before Javiera Villagra got in on the action to make the score 2-0. Austria pulled a goal back on the stroke of half time, with Irene Balek’s penalty corner giving the home fans some hope to cling to ahead of the second period.
Chile restored their two goal cushion just minutes after the break, with Infante scoring her first of the night from a slick penalty corner routine. Austria conceded a fourth in the 53rd minute when Gabriela Retamales guided her shot into the goal to give Chile an unassailable lead. Infante completed the scoring nine minutes from the end of the match, with her open play strike sealing a memorable 5-1 win for the South Americans.
Chile’s impressive performance shows that they are a team to be feared in this competition, and will have their minds focused on the dream of lifting the trophy on Sunday. Chile’s next opponents will be Russia, who finished bottom of Pool B. Austria face another almighty challenge in their quarter final match, with Pool B winners Belarus standing in their way of a place in the semi finals.
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