(Photo: Stanisals Brochier)
China, the highest ranked side in Lille, remain the only side left with a perfect record as three second half goals swept them to a comfortable victory over the USA to head Group A going into Tuesday’s final round-robin games.
Indeed, just a point against Austria will confirm their place at the head of the table as they belatedly made their superiority count
A lively first half saw both sides have goals disallowed while the US also soaked up a series of sin-binnings. China were enjoying the best of the play and they finally broke their rivals defensive resolve a couple of minutes into the second half.
There was a stroke of fortune to it, a right wing cross squeezing between the post and Tom Sheridan’s path, leaving the ball spinning on the goal line and open for Yubo Na to mop up.
Xiantang Liu extended the margin from a narrow angle, picking a gap at the near post through Sheridan’s defences and Liguang E completed the scoring six minutes from time. USA will be the basement side overnight and will need a big win against Austria on Tuesday to avoid staying there.
Earlier, Austria celebrated a 4-3 Eastern European derby win over neighbours the Czech Republic to begin day two, one which their bench greeted with some relish, to get right back into contention.
The Czechs had taken the initiative through David Vacek in the eighth minute, neatly turning on a loose ball and popping it behind Philippe Thiltges.
Michael Korper responded with his second direct drag-flick of the tournament before Robert Bele got his first of the game early in the second half for 2-1.
Vacek again got a close range touch to Martin Babicky excellent left-wing charge with eight minutes to go as the Czechs raised their game considerably.
But they were stung amid a goal rush in the closing ten minutes. Georg Jelinek’s scrambled effort from the floor restored the lead and Bele’s second was the killer blow, controlling a right-wing cross before calmly flicking home. Tomas Prochazka netted at the second attempt from a final hooter but it proved academic as Austria got off the mark.
On the other side of the competition, France and Ireland share top spot following their 2-2 draw. In the day’s closing match, Eugene Magee salvaged a late point with a penalty corner rebound on the final hooter to break France’s – and particularly that of immaculate Henri-Julien Lhomme – resistance.
The goalkeeper produced a string of fine saves but was deceived by Gareth Watkins in the 17th minute, his reverse daisy-cutter skipping across his bows and it felt like the floodgates might open.
But France withdrew from their shell and incredibly hit back twice in the closing two minutes of the half for a 2-1 interval lead. First, Matthieu Catonnet flipped one over David Harte after Paul Gleghorne was robbed at right-back.
In the second half, Ireland laid siege to the French goal, winning a string of penalty corners but could not convert until Magee’s last second intervention.
Russia put down a second half Scottish uprising to claim their first win of the competition and get back into the race for first place in Group B. After a few initial wobbles, they built a 2-0 lead early in the second half only for two Scottish goals in 100 seconds to tie up the game.
But a sweetly taken Nikolay Komarov effort, rounding Phil Carr to roll home, and a dead-eye penalty stroke from Dimitry Azarov with five minutes to go saw the Scottish toil end in vain.
The Scots had made much of the early running, driving hard at the central defensive pairing of Azarov and Ilya Larikov, earning a pair of corners before Russia got a foothold in the tie.
Golubev gave them the lead in the 22nd minute with a superbly taken rebound to Aleksandr Platonov’s reverse stick shot which ballooned high into Golubev’s path.
One became two a minute into the second half before Scotland fought back in style, Christie rebounding a corner and Forsyth finishing when found all alone in the Russian D.
It was not enough, though, to break down the resolute Russians who regrouped and strode home even with skipper Platonov sin-binned for the last seven minutes.