On Day 1 of the Hockey World League Round 2 event in Elektrostal, Japan collected a must-win against Ukraine, Austria put down a strong performance for three points against the Czech, and Russia sailed past Egypt on three goals by man of the match Dmitry Azarov.
Japan and Austria thus top the table after the first round of matches, followed by the Russian hosts, while Egypt, Czech Republic and Ukraine constitute the lower half of the field.
At the start of the day, the first match in Elektrostal paired top-seeded Japan (16) with the event's lowest-ranked team, Ukraine, the current world number 27.
Japan started off with a fair amount of pressure and dominated the early part of the game, gaining an early lead through a double-hit by Shinji Kawauchi but soon found more resistance in the ranks of their Ukrainian opponents who denied them any further progress unil halftime.
After the break, Ukraine even started to create a few chances of their own, but they could not keep Koshi Yamabe and Manabu Hatakeyama from slipping two more goals past them. A penalty corner finally provided Artem Ozerskyi with the right opportunity in the 64th minute, scoring Ukraine's first goal of the match, but it ws too little too late.
Manabu Hatakeyama piled on the fifth goal for Japan with two minutes on the clock for a 5-1 final score and the top-seeds first clear tournament win.
The second match paired neighbours Czech Republic and Austria. After a fairly even start, Austria soon emerged as the more aggressive and dangerous team, applying more pressure and acting more decisively.
Nonetheless, it took them almost half an hour to put one past the fiercely fighting Czech, as Michael Körper made good use of a hotly contested penalty stroke for his first goal of the day, which was swiftly followed by a tip-in goal from Dominik Monghy for a 2-0 halftime lead for the Austrians.
In the second half, Austria continued to dominated the proceedings, and despite a few chances for the Czech, Austria's victory was never in grave danger. Team captain Benny Stanzl added a penalty corner conversion in the 41st minute before Michael Körper piled on his second of the day with minutes on the clock for the 4-0 final score.
After a colorful opening ceremony, the day ended with the encounter between the Russian hosts and Egypt. Despite putting up a passionate fight, the Egyptians were outnumbered, and could not do much but limit the damage as penalty corner ace Dmitry Azarov led his team to victory with a set piece triple.
Two goals before halftime set the tone, and a latecomer minutes before the end of the match completed the trio of goals that keeps the hometeam in the running for the elusive tickets to next month's Hockey World League Semi-Finals.
To follow the developments at the World League Round 2 event in Elektrostal for the rest of the week, check our website www.fih.ch, follow us on Twitter @FIH_Hockey and @World_League1, or watch the Russian Hockey Federation's livestream at worldleague.mohockey.ru!
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