South Africa picked up their fourth win of the round-robin against Canada (4-1) to cruise into the Final of the Hero FIH Road to London competition. India defeated Italy in a dramatic match (1-0) to grab the second berth in the Final. Ukraine won against Poland (1-0) and will play for 3rd-4th place.
Ukraine vs. Poland: 1-0 (half-time: 1-0)
Poland, the lowest ranked team in the competition, was still pointless before this last round-robin match, while Ukraine had accumulated four points, with a win against Canada and an excellent draw on opening day against India.
The two teams drew (2-2) at the 2011 European Championship, and were again evenly matched during the first twenty minutes of this match, until Olena Ivakhnenko broke the deadlock to give Ukraine the lead with arguably the only serious goal-scoring opportunity of the half.
Poland had a good chance to pull themselves level early in the second period, but the Ukrainian defence coped well with the penalty corner situation. Both teams battled hard, but could hardly produce any clear-cut chances chances to score before the hooter sounded to confirm Ukraine's 1-0 victory.
Poland will now play for 5th-6th place on final day, while it would take a small miracle (Canadian win by at least 6 goals against South Africa) to prevent Ukraine to play for 3rd-4th place.
Player of the Match was Yana Sitalo of Ukraine.
For more information on UKR v POL, click here.
South Africa vs. Canada: 4-1 (half-time: 1-1)
South Africa was already qualified for the Final on Saturday, with three wins and a surprise draw against Italy, while Canada struggled so far in this competition, accumulating only a win against Poland and a draw on opening day against Italy.
First attempt on goal was by Canadian Natalie Sourisseau and it nearly surprised Vuyisanani Mangisa in the South African goal. Danger for South Africa then came from Brienne Stairs, with a good run along the back line, but her cross in empty space in front of the goal did not find any taker.
Canada was really taking the game to South Africa, and were rewarded in the 16th minute when Thea Culley received the ball with space and time in front of the goal, after a decisive circle penetration by Hannah Haughn. This was a wake-up call for South Africa. They started to push the pace of play and equalized by Sulette Damons on a confusing sequence in front of Kaitlyn Williams in the Canadian goal. They had a penalty-corner soon after but, with Pietie Coetzee on the bench at the time, could not capitalize on it.
Canada had a chance by Katie Baker, showing great individual skills to break through the South African defense then arrive one-on-one with the goal-keeper, but her shot shaved the outside of the post. Pace of play was fast and the match entertaining, but there was no more score in the period.
South Africa gained a penalty-corner at the beginning of second period, with Pietie Coetzee’s powerful flick well saved by Kaitlyn WIlliams. Coetzee was unsuccessful again on her second attempt; however South Africa scored on their next penalty-corner, using an option that ended with Dirkie Chamberlain deflecting the ball in goal. Canada were under pressure now but held tight in defence and managed to create some chances by Kate Gillis and Hannah Haughn, very active in front.
Canada tried hard but South Africa kept them well under control, and suddenly increased their tally in the last ten minutes of play, Dirkie Chamberlain scoring twice in quick succession to complete her hat-trick and build a comfortable 4-1 lead for South Africa. Kaitlyn Williams, having an excellent match in the Canadian goal, saved a penalty-stroke from Pietie Coetzee in the final minute of the match, which ended with a fourth win for South Africa in this round-robin (4-1).
South Africa will now play in the Final tomorrow, while Canada will be disappointed to have to play in the play-off for 5th-6th place against Poland.
Player of the Match was Dirkie Chamberlain of South Africa.
For more information on RSA v CAN, click here.
Italy vs. India: 0-1 (half-time: 0-0)
This last match of round-robin would decide which team would join South Africa in the Final on Saturday: Italy just needed a draw to go through, when India absolutely needed a win to take the second spot in the standings.
The Indians immediately attacked the Italian circle and had their first penalty-corner in the 10th minute. Roberta Lilliu in the Italian goal stopped the initial shot, and a few subsequent ones in close succession. She was again called into action a few minutes later, stopping an Indian attacker at the top of the circle, and clearing her own rebound amongst the Indian players.
Italy forced two penalty-corners in a row but could not capitalize either. The Indians kept pushing, but were attacking in less structured manner now, players trying too often to make the difference individually and making it easier for the Italian defense to break their attacks. Half-time was reached with no score and Italy starting to believe in their chance to reach the Final.
The scenario was similar in second period, India throwing everything they could towards the Italian goal, but to no avail. They scrambled a penalty-corner and, with time passing, became more and more desperate. With everybody up-field, they depleted their defense and exposed themselves to the rare Italian attacks. Italy forced a penalty-corner on one of their lone incursion in Indian territory, but Alessia Padalino’s shot was deflected wide, much to the relief of the local crowd.
India finally scored with fifteen minutes to go, Ritu Rani batting into goal the high rebound from a penalty-corner. The Italian argued the ball was played high in the air, but the goal stood and the emphasis was suddenly on Italy to create goals. Padalino had another chance on penalty-corner, but it was deflected wide.
India weathered the final Italian push, with two more penalty-corner attempts, to protect their narrow one-goal lead that qualifies them for the Final tomorrow against South Africa. Italy will play for 3rd place against Ukraine.
Player of the Match was Roberta Lilliu, goal-keeper for Italy.
For more information on ITA v IND, click here.
Schedule for Sunday February 26:
15h00: (5th-6th) Canada vs. Poland
17h30: (3rd-4th) Italy vs. Ukraine
20h00: (Final) South Africa vs. India (winner qualifies for 2012 Olympic Games in London)
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