South Africa labored to beat a valiant Polish team (2-1), with Pietie Coetzee saving the day with a late goal. The score see-sawed between Canada and Italy, but they finally stayed deadlocked (2-2). India suffered a set-back, unable to take the best over much lower ranked Ukraine (1-1).
South Africa vs. Poland: 2-1 (half-time: 0-0)
The first match of the day opposed top ranked South Africa to Poland. The South Africans, who only arrived two days ago in Delhi, had trouble getting their rhythm and the first scoring chance was for Poland, Natalia Wisniewska shooting just wide after a long run tearing through the South African defense. The Polish players were more entrepreneurial in the first half, often penetrating the South African 25m but they could not seriously threaten Mariette RIX in the South African goal.
The South African fans in the stands tried to shake up their squad with their noisy vuvuzelas, but score was still 0-0 at the break, with both teams scrambling penalty-corners in the final minute of the period.
South Africa found its form early in second half, promptly forcing two penalty-corners, with Kate Woods scoring on the second one with a direct shot. The joy was however short lived, Magdalena Zagajska scored for Poland at the other end less than 30 seconds later. The South Africans were moving the ball efficiently in midfield but the compact Polish defense kept its structure, preventing any shot on goal. The deadlock was finally broken in the 53rd minute when Pietie Coetzee received the ball at the far post and made no mistake to slot it under Marta Kucharska, excellent in the Polish goal.
The experienced South Africans controlled the final ten minutes but could not increase their narrow margin, making for a final score (2-1) much closer than anticipated.
Player of the match was Natalia Wisniewska of Poland.
For more information on RSA v POL, click here.
Italy vs. Canada: 2-2 (half-time: 1-0)
Italy started at full speed and forced a penalty-corner within four minutes of play. Agata Wybieralska's shot was nearly stopped by a Canadian on the post, but trickled over the line to give an early lead, and the momentum, to the Italians.
The Canadians were shaken by the start, but regained their composure after a few minutes and started to besiege the Italian circle. They were however nervous and scrambled a few chances, including a penalty-corner.
Both teams displayed a lot of activity in the remainder of the period but lacked rigour when entering the 25m to be really dangerous. Canada forced a penalty-corner in the final minute of the period but it fizzled out and Italy maintained their one-goal lead going into the break.
The Canadians combined well at the beginning of second period. Thea Culley received the ball in the circle at the end of a long sequence of passes, her first shot was stopped but she picked up the rebound and slotted a smashing reverse shot high in the net to tie the scoring.
Canada was clearly the better structured team in second half, but they lacked efficiency in the circle, including on two penalty-corners in a row. It is finally in the 61st minute that they took the lead by Brienne Stairs, deflecting the ball in goal from close range.
Italy, however, came back immediately by Alessia Doriana Padalino on a penalty-corner. There was intense activity at both ends in the final minutes of play, but the score stayed tied (2-2).
Player of the match was Dalila Mirabella of Italy.
For more information on ITA v CAN, click here.
India vs. Ukraine: 1-1 (half-time: 0-1)
The match between India (ranked 13th) and Ukraine (26th) started in front of a larger crowd than for the earlier matches, the fans starting to trickle in for the much anticipated debut of the Indian men’s team later in the evening. The first attacks by the Indians were wildly encouraged by the crowd, but Ukraine held its ground, then forced the first penalty-corner, shot just wide to the relief of the crowd.
India controlled the play, running deep into the Ukrainian defense, but without penetrating enough in the circle to threaten Alvina Budonna in the Ukrainian goal. At the end of one of their rare counter-attacks, Ukraine surprised the Indian defense and forced a penalty-corner, converted with a straight shot by their captain Maryna Vynohradova.
India pushed forward and started to pepper the Ukrainian goal, but precision was lacking and Budonna stood tall to stop everything coming her way. Score was still in favor of Ukraine (0-1) going into half-time.
The Indian players were faster and more physical, pushing the Ukrainians on their heels. Soundarya Yendala finally relieved the tension when she received the ball at the top of the circle and unleashed an instant shot in the net. Curiously, the Indian women seemed to slow down the pace after their goal instead of trying to force the advantage, giving the opportunity to Ukraine to push forward again.
India thought that they had finally scored when Anuradha Devi Thokchom deflected the ball in goal after a high shot, but the umpires deemed that she played the ball too high in the air and the score remained tied at 1-1. With time passing, the crowd became worried, the Indian players nervous and the Ukrainians started to see the possibility of an upset. Despite exhaustion, they managed to maintain their structure, breaking attacks after attacks of Indian players reverting too often to individual play.
Ukraine survived a penalty-corner in the last minute of play, and a wild scramble in front of their goal in the last 15 seconds, to hold on to the tie score (1-1), a good result for the Ukraine, but a disappointment for India.
Player of the Match was Anuradha Devi Thokchom, of India.
For more information on IND v UKR, click here.
Schedule for Sunday February 19:
10h00: Poland vs. Italy
14h00: South Africa vs. Ukraine
18h00: India vs. Canada
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