Azerbaijan 3, Belarus 0
It looked like there was a chance that Belarus might be able to pull off its second upset in as many games at the FIH Olympic Qualification Tournament, but in the end Azerbaijan powered through to a 3-0 win on the strength of three late markers.
It took 52 minutes for Azerbaijan to get on the board as the chances were few and far between for most of the first half. After a handful of penalty corner chances including one that rang off the cross bar, Azerbaijan’s Khatira Aliyeva broke the scoring silence with an upper corner flick. Aliyeva struck again six minutes later to double the lead.
In a game with so few scoring chances it was clear that the 2-0 lead would hold through the end of regulation, but as icing on the cake, Zhang Suleymanova put in one last short corner goal in the last minute of play to bring the final to 3-0.
The win keeps second-seeded Azerbaijan unbeaten in its first two outings. Belarus has one win and one loss. Both teams return to action on Sunday when Azerbaijan will look to keep its winning streak alive against Austria. Belarus will take on Malaysia in what is sure to be an even duel.
Japan 8, Malaysia 0
Japan continued to look like the strongest team at the Women’s Olympic Qualification tournament as they had no problems dispatching #23-ranked Malaysia, 8-0. It was the most lopsided result of the tournament so far.
Kaori Fujio led her team with a hat trick on two field goals and a penalty corner in the convincing victory. Beyond Fujio’s strong performance it was a team effort as five different players were responsible for the other five Japanese goals
Despite spending much of the first half swarming the Malaysian net, Japan only went into halftime with a 2-0 lead. Fujio gave Japan the early lead as she marched down field and put in the 1-0 goal. Late in the half, Sachimi Iwao doubled the lead with a deflection on a penalty corner.
The floodgates opened in the second half as the Japanese scored six unanswered goals. The hosts spent nearly the entire half camped in front of the Malaysian net and used the experience to craft some fancy plays that included tic-tac-toe goals and spinning behind the back moves. Malaysia could do little to stop the onslaught as they were visibly frustrated and worn out.
Japan, ranked #9 in the FIH World Ranking has yet to face any stiff competition at the qualifier. They have played only the two lowest seeds and the competition is sure to get tougher as they makes their way up to the higher-ranked opponents. The next game will be the toughest test yet for the hosts, when they take on #17 Chile.
Austria 0,Chile 3
Chile rebounded from an opening day loss against Belarus with a 3-0 victory against Austria. The loss leaves Austria winless in its first two outings.
Chile’s Daniela Caram set the tone early, firing in a field goal just five minutes into the game. But Austria regrouped and competed well through the rest of the half, keeping Chile scoreless and going into the break down by just one.
Chile again had a quick start in the second half when Denise Infante struck in the 2-0 goal just over a minute in the half. But just like in the first half, Austria again buckled down and played solid defense to keep the lead from growing. Unfortunately for the Austrians, the focus on defense also kept them from threatening the Chilean net.
Infante killed any hopes of an Austrian comeback when she added her second goal of the game with just seven minutes left to bring the final score to 3-0.
29th-ranked Austria entered the tournament as the lowest seeded team, so today’s result against 17th-ranked Chile, seeded third here in Japan, is a moral victory. Meanwhile, this is the second outing for Chile with a result that didn’t live up to expectations. As the competition gets tougher, Chile will need to bring more to the game if it wants a place in the London.
Both teams are off tomorrow and will return to action with tough tests on Sunday. Chile will face tournament leader and host Japan, while Austria takes on second-seeded and undefeated Azerbaijan.
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