The second round of matches in Elektrostal saw Japan and Russia confirm their roles as top seeds with wins against Egypt and Austria respectively, while Ukraine recorded a celebrated victory against much higher ranked Czech Republic.
Day 2 at the World League Round 2 in Elektrostal started with the encounter between Ukraine and Czech Republic today, with both teams keen to secure their first points after yesterday's defeats. The first half of the match was an intense battle between evenly matched opponents. The ball moved back and forth in midfield but scoring opportunities were few and far between.
Towards the end of the first half, the Czechs seemed to start gaining momentum, and play slowly shifting into the Ukrainian half of the field more. However, the whistle sounded before the Czech could make it count, and after the re-start, it was the Ukrainians who came back better. In the 47th minute. Artem Ozerskyi capitalized on a ball across the circle and put Ukraine on the scoreboard, a fact that seemed to inspire his team who continued to play to win.
In the final minutes of the match, it looked like the Czech were going to force a shoot-out, but they just couldn't make their opportunities count, and the elated Ukrainians walked off the field with a victory in their pockets.
In their second encounter of the event, Japan dominated the proceedings from the beginning despite valiant efforts by Egypt. Three goals in the first half laid the foundation to a solid win despite a weaker second half.
It was Ryohei Kawakami who set the Japanese en route to victory with a tap-in in the 9th minute, followed swiftly by a goal by Heita Yoshihara midway through the first half. Finally, Manabu Hatakeyama piled on a penalty corner after the first 35 minutes had ended for a comfortable 3-0 halftime lead.
After the break, Egypt returned with renewed resolve however and started making their mark on the game. A penalty stroke midway through the second half, converted by Hamada Atef, got Egypt onto the scoreboard, but Japan protected their lead with experience and calm.
The match threatened to get intense towards the end as Egypt grew anxious to avoid the looming defeat but the Africans eventually could not force the missing goals and the match ended with a 3-1 win for Japan.
The nailbiter of the day came at the end, when Russia took on Austria in a hotly disputed clash. The home team gained an early advantage when Nikolay Yankin took advantage of a misunderstanding in the Austrian defense to open the scoring in the 6th minute, but Austria's Michi Körper responded less than five minutes later with a cracking penalty corner flick for the 1-1.
An open battle between equal opponents ensued, with chances at either end, and it was the Russians who pulled ahead again when Nikolay Komarov slapped a ball across the circle into the boards. With a great solo run and goal in the dying seconds of the first half, Dmitry Azarov subsequently extended the lead to 3-1.
In the second half, Austria came out blazing, chasing the elusive goal to narrow the gap. After 20 minutes, Michael Körper brought them back within striking distance with another penalty corner goal, but veteran Alexander Platonov re-stored the two goal lead little later, pushing the ball over the line in a crowded circle.
The match ended with a 4-2 win for Russia, designating Russia the crown prince of the tournament for the time being, and complicating Austria's dream of challenging Japan for the elusive spot in the 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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