With a spectacular 5-2 win over host India, South Africa secured its spot in the Final on Saturday. Italy won an important match against Ukraine, 2-1, to keep its chances alive for the Final. Canada had to work hard to finally break the Polish defence at the end of the match and earn its first win of the tournament.
Ukraine vs. Italy: 1-2 (half-time: 0-1)
taly, still with a chance to qualify for the Final of the Hero FIH Road to London tournament, staked their claim early in the match when tournament top-scorer Alessia Padalino drilled home a penalty-corner five minutes into the game.
This early morning match was not played with much pace on either side, with players possibly starting to feel the strain of playing their fourth game in five days. Ukraine had a timid attempt on a penalty-corner, easily handled by Roberta Lilliu in the Italian goal, but there was no additional scoreboard activity in the period and Italy went into the half-time break with a narrow one-goal lead.
Ukraine came back in the match early in second period by Bohdana Sadova, jumping on a loose ball in front of the Italian keeper before smashing it into the goal from close range. The match became more animated, both teams trying to force the decision, but too often rushing the last pass or last shot to seriously threaten the goal-keepers.
Tempers flared up in the tense end of match. Padalino, the final recipient of most Italian attacks, was under close scrutiny from the Ukrainian defense, and it is finally Giuliana Ruggeri, left alone in the circle,who scored a dramatic winning goal in the 69th minute.
Player of the Match was Alvina Budonna, the Ukrainian goal-keeper.
For more information on UKR v ITA, click here.
Canada vs. Poland: 1-0 (half-time: 0-0)
Canada were looking to bounce back after their disappointing loss to Ukraine on Tuesday and immediately besieged the Polish circle. They had a chance to take the lead from an early penalty-corner but, with their regular flicker Diana Roemer still sidelined, they could not capitalize. Shortly after, Kate Gillis managed to run along the back line and address a perfect cross past the goal keeper, but it rolled tantalizingly along the goal-line without anybody able to put a stick on it.
Poland were under heavy pressure but weathered the storm, spoiling every Canadian attempt. They survived a few hot scares in front of their goal-keeper Dominika Nowicka, had some narrow escapes, but were still unscathed going into the half-time break, despite an overwhelming Canadian domination.
Kate Gillis forced a penalty-corner for Canada early in second period, but they failed to control it. Canada were still heavily dominating the midfield, applying constant pressure on the Polish circle, but were unsuccessful in their attempts to score. They had plenty of steam left, but seemed to run out of ideas when penetrating the circle. That was until the 65th minute, when an unmarked Thea Culley received a long pass from Abigail Raye and was brought down by the goal-keeper. Veteran Stephanie Jameson made no mistake slotting the ensuing penalty-stroke to finally give the lead to Canada.
Poland had a lone chance from a penalty-corner while Canada were a player down due to a green card, but the North Americans held on to their meagre one-goal lead to earn their first win of the competition (1-0).
Player of the Match was Katie Baker, captain of Canada.
For more information on CAN v POL, click here.
India vs. South Africa: 2-5 (half-time: 1-2)
It was an important match between India and South Africa: both teams had two wins and a tie, and could secure a berth in the Final on Saturday with a victory.
The teams traded penalty-corners in the opening minutes, but South Africa was still without Pietie Coetzee in the line-up and did not threaten much. South Africa scored on its third penalty corner attempt when Dirkie Chamberlain collected the rebound and pushed the ball over the line.
India countered with a penalty-corner, Asunta Lakra’s powerful shot went through the defence. Chamberlain scored again in the final minutes of the period, once again well positioned close to the goal post to collect a rebound from the goal-keeper’s pad and slam the ball in goal, silencing the noisy home crowd. South Africa carried the narrow lead into the break.
India immediately went on the attack at the beginning of second period, but South Africa survived the storm… with a little help from their goal post. India (and the crowd) thought that they had scored on a penalty-corner in the 47th minute, but the direct shot was clearly too high. There was only so much pressure that Mariette Rix could deflect and India equalized on a well-rehearsed penalty-corner option that eluded the South African goal-keeper and a defender to arrive on Soundarya Yendala’s stick on the far post.
The joy of the crowd was short lived, Sulette Damons scoring at the other end of the pitch on the next play, after a confusing sequence in front of the goal. Chamberlain further deflated their enthusiasm with her third goal of the match, pushing South Africa’s lead to 4-2.
Lauren Penny missed an open net opportunity in the final minute of the match, but Damons put the final cherry on the South African cake with a late goal, for a spectacular 5-2 win, securing a spot in the Final on Saturday.
Player of the Match was Dirkie Chamberlain of South Africa.
For more information on IND v RSA, click here.
Schedule for Friday February 24:
10h00: Ukraine vs. Poland
14h00: South Africa vs. Canada
18h00: Italy vs. India
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