Chile 0, Japan 0
Chile turned in the surprise performance of the day in the early game at the Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament, holding top-seeded Japan scoreless in a 0-0 draw.
The draw keeps 17th-ranked Chile’s hopes alive to make the final and delivers a blow to the ninth-ranked Japanese, who entered the event as the big favorites to earn the berth to the London Games.
Japan was clearly the dominant team in the first half, spending nearly the entire 35 minutes in the Chilean half of the field. But despite their presence in the Chilean zone, the Japanese managed very few meaningful scoring chances. As the game wore on, Chile gained confidence and by the second half the action was more balanced with Chile having its best scoring chances in the last 10 minutes of the game.
The tie, left the full crowd in Kakamigahara a bit deflated, but the result does not kill Japan’s chances of making the final, it simply makes the margin for error much smaller. Meanwhile, with Chile earning the tie, the standings are now much more open for exactly who the two finalists will be six days from now.
Chile will look to build on the momentum from today’s outing on Tuesday against Malaysia, while Japan will look to refocus in time for Tuesday’s key game against second-seeded Azerbaijan, which until today, was expected to be Japan’s toughest opponent at this tournament.
Austria 0, Azerbaijan 5
Azerbaijan took sole possession of first place in the round robin phase of the Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament after making easy work of Austria in a 5-0 win. Azerbaijan is the only team with three wins in three games after Japan had to settle for a draw against Chile.
Azerbaijan was very methodical in its approach to today’s game. There wasn’t much flash or flare, but they steadily wore down the Austrians and in the end were able to earn the convincing five-goal win. The game leaves Austria not only winless in its first three outings, but also scoreless as they have an 0-15 goal differential.
Azerbaijan took a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of regulation on the strength of goals from Yuliya Muradi and Farida Mammadova. Myungsoon Mammadova gave Azerbaijan a convincing 3-0 lead late in the first half when she flicked a penalty corner into the upper right corner.
Azerbaiajn continued to look strong in the second half and steadily built up its lead. Renata Matjusaitate and Taejeong Han each scored their first goal of the tournament to up the balance to 5-0. In total, Four of the five Azerbaijan makers were field goals, with Mammadova’s effort being the only penalty corner.
On Tuesday, the tournament will have its first major showdown as Azerbaijan will look to keep sole possession of the round robin lead in a key game against Japan. Meanwhile, Austria, which is out of contention to make it to London will look for its first win of the tournament against Belarus.
Belarus 2, Malaysia 2
Malaysia staged the comeback of the day, with two goals late in the second half to salvage a 2-2 tie against Belarus. Siti Noor Amarina Ruhani was the hero for Malaysia, scoring both of the goals.
Midway through the first half Belarus struck with their first goal when Nadzeya Silitskaya deflected in the 1-0 marker. Ten minutes later Maryia Halinouskaya convincingly fired in a penalty corner to double the lead.
Things got interesting in the second half when Ruhani got her stick on a ball that trickled into the Belarus net to make it a one-goal game. The goal, while not the prettiest in the world elicited a hearty celebration from the Malaysians as their first of this event. After the goal, the tempo picked up on both sides with a handful of scoring chances and penalty corners on each end. Ruhani tied the game and capped the comeback with two minutes left when her penalty corner shot cleanly hit the back of the goal.
The draw gives Belarus a tally in each column with a win, a tie and a loss. Meanwhile Malaysia earned its first point of the tournament with today’s result. While not mathematically out of contention, it would take an extraordinary set of circumstances for either team to still vie for a place in London 2012.
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