Super Final 2011 (Women): USA and Russia win groups ahead of World League quarter-finals

World League

CHN vs ITA - credit: Russell McKinnonTIANJIN, China (June 16) - Reigning champion United States of America and world No 4 Russia have topped the groups after on day-three action at the FINA Women’s World League Super Final in Tianjin tonight. Playing before another large crowd at the Tianjin Olympic Centre Swimming & Diving Pool, the USA slipped into top place after a shock 11-10 sudden-death, penalty-shootout victory by Greece.

It was a rare win for the Greeks over the USA and the game was a rare event in itself with USA winning the first period 4-0, Greece winning the second 4-0 and the USA throwing three consecutive goals after Greece went 5-4 ahead. Greece closed normal time with the only two goals of the final quarter. Both teams converted three shots in the regular rotation but it came down to sudden death where Stavroula ANTONAKOU scored but goalkeeper Eleni KOUVDOU blocked Kelly RULON’s attempt.

Greek captain Kyriaki LIOSI praised her goalkeeper. “She was very good and caught everything. We didn’t start very well.” On what was said at quarter time: “We must be strong. We must solve the problems and we must score. We did that.”

USA head coach Adam KRIKORIAN was unhappy with the loss. “As I said before, every team is good here, on a parity. Whether you are up by four goals or two, it doesn’t matter.  We relaxed and Greece did a great job with shots and opportunities. We weren’t concerned with the score, just how we played the game and we didn’t play well. We need to be more consistent.”

Russia played splendidly to defeat world No 2 Australia 12-9 to win Group B. Russia shot to a 6-2 lead before Australia came back to 6-5 8-7, 9-8 and 10-9 before giving up two Evgenia IVANOVA goals in the last 75 seconds. Russian head coach Alexander KABANOV said he was pleased with the game. “It was not a problem. It was a very good practice match against a strong, physical Australian team. They got stronger as the game went on.”

The game saw Australian head coach Greg McFADDEN red-carded for continuously sniping the referees over their calls inside the final four minutes. He gained the yellow card midway through the third. Assistant coach Peter SZILAGYI said: “We missed four extra-man (chances) in the first quarter and Russia scored three goals and this was the gap at the end. We did lots of hard work in the middle two quarters and got the game back to 10-9 but we made many silly individual mistakes, which cost us the game.”

Spain rebounded from two 14-6 losses in group B to lead from the front and beat Canada 10-9, once having a 6-3 advantage in the third period. The emotion on head coach Miki OCA’s face after the match was evident: “We changed things a little and we defended the counter-attack. We’ve been having too many counters against us by Australia and Russia. We stopped these counters today, then we could start playing. We can compete against anyone. We played very serious, calm and intelligently. Finally we took it (a win). Now we realise we can compete against the best teams.”

Canadian captain Krystina ALOGBO rued the poor start and stated it was the team’s first tournament of the year. “We haven’t been together a lot and we have some new players.” But it was the senior players’ reactions today that upset her the most. “We didn’t step up, the veterans. The young ones did but the older ones didn’t so we couldn’t dominate in a tight game.”

The final match of the night saw China bounce back from some lacklustre performances to play a solid game in defeating Italy 15-9. China led 9-4 at halftime and had the game sewn up at 11-5 by the final break. Chinese head coach Juan JANE GIRALT said: “I have the feeling that it was the correct result. Today we had to all play together with more press. I was very happy today. It is more difficult for China to play at home and it is not easy against the best teams in the world. We relaxed a little in the fourth quarter but that is normal when you are six or seven goals difference. It’s people, not only players.”

Italy’s Fabio CONTI paid congratulations to China. “Today we had to do something better in defence but it was not very good. However, we played stronger towards the end of the match.”

Tomorrow moves to the quarter-finals and the main matchups will be the two-versus-three games where Australia faces a resurgent Greece and China plays Spain. The USA has earned a clash with Canada and Russia will front Italy.

Match reports:

Quarters: 3-0, 3-4, 2-2, 4-3

Referees: Andreas MIRALIS (GRE), Fillipo GOMEZ (ITA)
Extra Man: RUS 7/15. AUS: 6/15
Pens: RUS: 1/0. AUS: 0/0

RUSSIA: ANNA KARNAUKH, Nadezhda FEDOTOVA, Ekaterina PROKOFYEVA (1), Sofia KONUKH (2), Alexandra ANTONOVA, Natalia RYZHOVA-ALENICHEVA (1), Ekaterina LISUNOVA (3), Evgenia SOBOLEVA (1), Ekaterina TANKEEVA, Olga BELYAEVA (3), Evgenia IVANOVA (1), Victoria KUROCHKINA, Ekaterina ZELENTSOVA. Head Coach: Alexander KABANOV.

AUSTRALIA: Alicia McCORMACK, Gemma BEADSWORTH, Ashleigh SOUTHERN, Rebecca RIPPON, Jane MORAN, Bronwen KNOX (3), Rowena WEBSTER, Kate GYNTHER (2), Glencora RALPH (1), Holly LINCOLN-SMITH (3), Zoe ARANCINI, Nicola ZAGAME, Keesja GOFERS. Head Coach: Greg McFADDEN.

RUS vs AUS - credit: Russell McKinnon
RUS vs AUS - credit: Russell McKinnon

Russia won Group B with a powerful effort in a game where the early margin was 6-2 to Russia with Australia having to play catch-up. Russia had the better all-round game and came away with a three-goal margin, boosted by two late goals. Russia kept Australia scoreless in the first quarter and sent in three goals, much like at the Kirishi Cup in Russia two weeks ago when Russia led 6-0 at the break. Olga BELYAEVA was chief destroyer from two metres with a simple turning goal and then another shot for 2-0 inside three minutes. Captain Sofia KONUKH added the third from the top as Australia struggled to keep shots on target. Natalia RYZHOVA-ALENICHEVA made it 4-0 on extra at the start of the second quarter. Australia then broke through with Holly LINCOLN-SMITH from the two metres and captain Kate GYNTHER on extra from right-hand catch. Russia recovered quickly through Ekaterina LISUNOVA on extra on the deep left and Evgenia SOBOLEVA on extra by 3:05 for 6-2. The Aussie Stingers had the better of the next stanza with Bronwen KNOX scoring off a long cross pass on extra and LINCOLN-SMITH with a strong centre-forward backhand goal to close out the first-half scoring. KNOX opened the third period with a goal on counter, the recipient of a classic pass from Rebecca RIPPON, bringing the game to 6-5. LISUNOVA and KONUKH relieved the pressure, the latter coming from a smart forward action by a Russian player underwater forcing a penalty on Alicia McCORMACK. Australian head coach Greg McFADDEN gained a yellow card for chatting to the referees. LINCOLN-SMITH scored her third on a Rowena WEBSTER cross-pass on extra for 8-6. Russia had a chance for a three-goal margin with two minutes left but blasted the ball into McCORMACK’s stomach when the Aussies had three players in the ejection box. GYNTHER found herself clear on counter early in the fourth period and lobbed Anna KARNAUKH for 8-7. Ekaterina PROKOFYEVA scored easily down the deep left. Twenty seconds later Australia called a timeout but the shot was blocked. A stolen ball was sent high to Glencora RALPH who was free up front and scored for 9-8. BELYAEVA scored her third, this time on extra and McFADDEN saw red — the referee’s card after his outburst — and left the pool deck. KNOX made it 10-9 on extra at 3:15 and Australia was well in the hunt. But frustration set, an urge for goals and fast breaks failed to stop LISUNOVA and Evgenia IVANOVA netting in the last 75 seconds for the deserved victory.

Quarters: 4-0, 0-4, 1-3, 2-0 (FT: 7-7. Pens: 4-3)

Referees: Irfan SADEKOV (RUS), Santiago RODRIGUEZ (ESP)
Extra Man: GRE: 3/7. USA: 3/8
Pens: GRE: 2/2. USA: 0/0

GREECE: Eleni KOUVDOU, Christina TSOUKALA (1), Antiopi MELIDONI, Ilektra Maria PSOUNI, Kyriaki LIOSI, Alkisti AVRAMIDOU (1), Alexandra ASIMAKI (1), Antigoni ROUMPESI (4), Angeliki GEROLYMOU (2), Triantafyllia MANOLIOUDAKI, Stavroula ANTONAKOU (2), Georgia LARA, Eleni GOULA. Head Coach: Georgios MORFESIS.


GRE vs USA - credit: Russell McKinnon
GRE vs USA - credit: Russell McKinnon

World No 7 Greece won a rare match against world No 1 USA, claiming the first goal in sudden-death penalty shootout after the game was locked at 7-7 by fulltime and three goals each in the regular shootout rotation. What a strange start to a match when the world No 1 USA wins the first period 4-0 and Greece retaliates with the same score in the second! It was crazy but the USA was better prepared at the start and the defence made Greece shoot astray. In the second quarter it was Greece who turned the tables with a selection of shots. USA steadily dropped in goals in the first with Kameryn CRAIG at centre forward, veteran Heather PETRI from the top, fellow triple Olympian Brenda VILLA on extra and Lauren WENGER, the MVP at the 2007 FINA World Championships in Melbourne, Then it was Greece’s turn to impress with a shutout in the second quarter. Alexandra ASIMAKI scored from centre forward. Angeliki GEROLYMOU converted a penalty shot, Antigoni ROUMPESI drilled one from the top; Christina TSOUKALA sent in another outside shot, this time on extra for the 4-4 halftime break. ROUMPESI continued the run in the third period with Greece’s second penalty goal. The USA improved as a unit and showed better champion status in scoring the next three goals with Annika DRIES at centre forward, Kelly RULON on extra and CRAIG nabbing a second, also from two metres. Greece, 7-5 down, started the fourth period and GEROLYMOU scored on extra. The USA had a timeout at 3:12 but to no avail in the scoring department. A minute later ROUMPESI scored her third from the top for 7-7 and the game gained only its second tied score. Greece went to a timeout at 0:48 but USA pressured hard and the hole set was at 5m. The shot went wide. The USA took a timeout at 0:17 and the ball finally made its way to VILLA who took the foul and shot, only to see KOUVDOU tip in over and send the match to penalty shootout. ANTONAKOU and RULON traded goals. TSOUKALA and Maggie STEFFENS both had their shots blocked by the goalkeepers with Betsy ARMSTRONG’s save clean with her right hand. AVRAMIDOU and PETRI traded goals for 9-9. GEROLYMOU had her shot stopped by ARMSTRONG while PETRI had her shot tipped into the left post by KOUVDOU. ROUMPESI was safe with her shot, as was MATHEWSON for 10-10. The next rotation started with ANTONAKOU scoring and RULON having hers stopped for a tremendous Greek victory.

Quarters: 1-3, 2-1, 4-4, 2-2

Referees: Amber DRURY (USA), MENG An Long (CHN)
Extra Man: CAN: 6/15. ESP: 1/8
Pens: CAN: 0/0. ESP: 0/0

CANADA: Rachel RIDDELL, Krystina ALOGBO (2), Katrina MONTON, Emily CSIKOS (2), Joelle BEKHAZI, Whitney GENOWAY, Rosanna TOMIUK, Sophie BARON LA SALLE, Monika EGGENS, Hanna YELIZAROVA (3), Tara CAMPBELL (2), Marina RADU, Stephanie VALIN. Head Coach: Pat OATEN.

SPAIN: Ava COPADO, Blanca GIL (4), Ana ESPAR, Roser TARRAGO, Matilde ORTIZ (1), Jennifer PAREJA (1), Lorena MIRANDA, Pilar PENA, Andrea BLAS, Ona MESSEGUER (2), M. Carmen GARCIA (2), Marta BACH, Laura ESTER. Head Coach: Miguela OCA.

CAN vs ESP - credit: Russell McKinnon
CAN vs ESP - credit: Russell McKinnon

Spain did what coach Miki OCA threatened could be done and that’s win in Tianjin. From start to finish the Spanish were in control against a Canadian side playing its first tournament of the year. Canada and Spain were set for a big tussle on a day of big results. It was Spain who struck first, firstly through captain Jennifer PAREJA and then from M. Carmen GARCIA. Canadian captain Krystina ALOGBO responded from her favoured two-metre position but a long lob by the brilliant Blanca GIL gave Spain a healthy quarter-time lead. Tara CAMPBELL brought Canada closer to the action on extra but GIL bagged her second on extra midway through the period. ALOGBO was at her tricks again with a superb goal at the 4:01 mark. Canada had a timeout but nothing eventuated for the rest of the half. Spain went 6-3 ahead through GARCIA and GIL (her third) before Canada hit a purple patch. Firstly Emily CSIKOS converted extra and then youthful Hanna YELIZAROVA followed suit. YELIZAROVA scored from the same position on counter 18 seconds later to level the game at 6-6. Matilde ORTIZ struggled and was rewarded at centre forward with a goal at 1:21. YELIZAROVA scored her third of the quarter on another counter down the left — three goals in less than three minutes and her team was 7-7 with Spain. GIL dulled the celebrations with her fourth goal on extra 22 seconds from time. The game was tied again at the top of the fourth when Campbell pulled a shot backwards over her head from an ALOGBO pass on extra-man attack. It was the first such goal of the tournament and probably won’t be repeated again. Spain called time but to no effect. However, soon after Ono MESSEGUER got into the action with successive goals from left-hand-catch with the second a slider under Rachel RIDDELL’s left arm. At 10-8 it was a great buffer for Spain. CSIKOS grabbed back one goal on extra, the shot just sliding over the line for 10-9 behind at 2:21. Canada had another chance on extra but ALOGBO’s shot hit the crossbar. ALOGBO pulled an exclusion foul at 0:57 and Canada worked the timeout. Twice it shot on extra (gaining a second on PAREJA) but Spain gathered and called timeout at 0:04, effectively finishing the game.

MATCH 12, 19:00, GROUP A, CHINA 15 ITALY 9
Quarters: 4-2, 5-2, 2-1, 4-4

Referees: German MOLLER (ARG), Noel HARROD (AUS)
Extra Man: CHN: 3/9. ITA: 4/12
Pens: CHN: 0/0. ITA: 0/0

CHINA: YANG Jun, TENG Fei (4), LIU Ping, SUN Yujun (4), HE Jin (1), SUN Yating (1), SONG Donglun, CHEN Yuan, WANG Yi (1), MA Huanhuan (3), SUN Huizi, ZHANG Lei, WANG Ying, ZHU Yajing, ZHANG Cong. Head Coach: Juan JANE GIRALT.

ITALY: Giulia GOLERO, Simona ABBATE (2), Elisa CASANOVA, Giulia RAMBALDI, Allegra LAPI, Martina SAVIOLI (1), Marta COLAIOCCO (1), Roberta BIANCONI (2), Giulia EMMOLO, Francesca POMERI, Aleksandra COTTI, (3) Teresa FRASSINETTI, Elisa QUEIROLO, Medea VERDE. Head Coach: Fabio CONTI.

CHN vs ITA - credit: Russell McKinnon
CHN vs ITA - credit: Russell McKinnon

China started tentatively and conceded a lob shot by Simona ABBATE but by midway through the first quarter, China regained some confidence lost in previous nights. TENG Fei, SUN Yujun (with a lob) and TENG again, had China 3-1 ahead. Roberta BIANCONI scored on extra and WANG Yi responded on right-hand-catch position for 4-2 at the first break. Martina SAVIOLI brought to game to within one with a lob on counter-attack. However, the goals dried up for Italy as TENG, SUN Yujun, SUN Yating and HE Jin made it 8-3. Italy pulled one back through Marta COLAIOCCO on extra but SUN Yujun made it 9-4 before the long break. The 800-strong crowd was revelling in the result after some harrowing moments previously.  SUN Yujun started the second half like she left the first, with another goal, this time from nine metres, completely lifting the spectators from their seats. Italy called a timeout to settle the team. It led to more than four minutes of top defence from both teams before MA Huanhuan started her roll of goals. BIANCONI sent in her second from the top to close the third period 11-5. MA opened the fourth with a super shot from the top, followed by ABBATE’s second. MA rifled in another, this time from eight metres for 13-6. Italy’s Aleksandra COTTI had her day in the sun when she scored three in a row with two on extra before China called timeout at 3:54. Tight defence meant nothing until 1:06 when TENG Fei sent in a screamer — her fourth of the game. China had the last hurrah when ZHANG Lei received the ball from TENG and scored for 15-9 seven seconds from time.