Top two set to meet in tournament decider on Saturday
Yesterday's third round of matches at the World League Round 2 in Elektrostal saw Austria defeat Egypt in a shoot-out, Japan sail past the Czech Republic to maintain the top spot in the table, and Russia wrestle down a formidable challenge from Ukraine to remain on Japan's heels. Japan thus top the table at the end of Day 3, followed by Russia on the same number of points, with both set to meet in Saturday's decisive direct encounter. Austria are in third place, followed by Ukraine, Egypt and the Czech Republic.
The first match of the day was between Austria and Egypt, and it started with a flurry of goals, with three scored in the first four minutes. Egypt started the run with a very early penalty corner that Hamada Atef converted into the lead for his team. The Austrians' response was immediate, as they rushed down the field from the re-start and Sebastian Eitenberger had the last touch on the equalizer. However, Egypt came straight back, restoring their lead on the next play with a goal from Ahmed Abd Elmaksoud.
After this intial burst of energy, the game settled into a steadier pace. Egypt had the better opportunities but could not score, and the first half concluded without any forther goals scored. At the re-start however, Austria came back the more focussed side. They were able to hold play in the Egyptian half more and forced several opportunities, getting the great turn-around on the way in the 50th minute as Michael Körper scored his first of the dayfor the equalizer.
A few minutes later, Körper hit the target again for Austria to take the lead for thefirst time in the match, but the joy was shortlived. Hamada Atef sunk a penalty corner four minutes later to pull level again and eventually force the match into a shoot-out. In this decider, Austria were the much more cool and calm side, sinking three in a row while Egypt's second, third and fourth representatives failed to convert. Austria thus snatched victory in this encounter of equal opponents, securing two points for the shoot-out win.
Next up were the Czech and the Japanese, with the Japanese the clear favorites with two wins from their first two matches, while the Czech have been struggling throughout this event. Japan started off quickly as Yasuhiro Nakayama deflected a 6th minute penalty corner shot into the net. It looked like the match might turn out to be a one-sided affair, but the Czech regrouped quickly and warded off the Japanese attacks for the remainder of the first half and deep into the second.
Despite a number of opportunities, including several penalty corners, Japan could not extend their lead, until the strained Czech defense crumbled towards the end of the match and a quick double hit by the Japanese sealed the Czechs' defeat. Kei Kawakami and Yasuhiro Nakayama struck twice within a minute, sinking two field goals for a 3-0 scoreline that stood for the remaining five minutesuntil the final whistle.
Ukraine and Russia wrapped up the day with a close and exciting match. Ukraine had the better started and looked very strong in the first half, while their Russian counterparts were struggling to find their feet. In the 27th minute, Ukraine deservedly took the lead with a goal from Oleh Polishchuk, and the scoreline stayed that way into the break.
The second half was all Russia's however, and the home team turned the game around in a span of ten minutes. Nikolay Yankun got the hosts started ten minutes after the break. His goal was quickly followed by another as Alexander Korolev pushed the ball over the line from a goalmouth scramble, and Pavel Plesetskiy piled on Russia's third little later. Despite desperate attempts by Ukraine to regain control of the match, the 70 minutes ended with this scoreline, confirming the third win in a row for the home team. Russia thus remain a strong contender for the tournament win together with the event's highest ranked team, Japan.
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!Back