Super Final 2011 (Women): Russia dumped from the World League semifinals by Italy in sudden-death penalty shootout

World League

ITA vs RUS - credit: Russell McKinnonTIANJIN, China (June 17) - Russia did the unthinkable by losing to Italy 21-20 in a sudden-death penalty shootout to miss the semifinals of the FINA Women’s World League Super Final in Tianjin. The game was locked at 12-12 by fulltime after Russia missed a gift penalty attempt six seconds from fulltime forcing the shooting that went to 22 shots before a winner could be found. It was astounding, given that Italy had not won a game in the rounds and toppled the unbeaten Russians at the Tianjin Olympic Centre Swimming & Diving Pool.

The gutsy Italians, who led 1-0 in the first and regained the lead at 8-7 and 9-8, equalised with 12 seconds remaining and gave up a penalty attempt. The win sees it play China in tomorrow’s semifinals. China, needed a penalty shootout to best Spain 13-12.

In the other quarter-finals, the reigning champion United States of America beat Canada 8-6 to set up a semifinal with world No 2 Australia who beat Greece 10-8.

Italian head coach Fabio CONTI said he was naturally happy to win but said: “In a tournament like this it is natural to do good and bad games. It was important to win our first game of the tournament. “Congratulations to Russia because at this moment Russia is very, very strong. Tonight we were trying a kind of defence that we tried yesterday. We have studied the video but we still need to do something better. It is important to analyse how we are playing.”

Australia won the first quarter-final 10-8 over Greece, a team that threatened to go all the way at this tournament. Greece led 2-1 early but Australia levelled by quarter time and was never matched, leading 5-4 at halftime and 8-6 at the final break.

Aussie Stingers Kate GYNTHER spoke about the controlled nature of her team’s play: “We knew what sort of defence they play as we play them a fair bit and our zone was very good. We did not get sucked into their game.” On Australia having difficulties against Greece in the past: “If you don’t take them seriously it can come up and bite you.  We had focus today, control of extra-man defence was good but we got a lot of exclusions against us.”

Greece’s Georgia LARA said her team was not deflated after the previous night’s excellent victory over World Cup and reigning World League champion United States of America. “That was not the problem. The problem was we had extra-man plays we didn’t score, especially at the beginning. We had good defence when we concentrated but sometimes the luck was against us with our shots not going in. We had a good rhythm all game. It’s difficult to change the score all the time, sometimes we come back and sometimes we don’t.”

China had to come back from the death to advance in the tournament, dragging themselves up from 8-5 down in the final four minutes to force a penalty shootout after MA Huanhuan scored on extra four seconds from time.

It was sadness for the exceptional Spanish captain Blanca GIL , twice a scorer in the match, who missed the opening penalty. The remaining nine players converted and China had the victory and a semifinal berth. Spanish coach Miki OCA said: “We played a good game but in the last stage we didn’t score. We couldn’t get opportunities. Our attack came to nothing and we missed a few good opportunities. We are playing at a good level.”

In the battle of the North American teams, the USA came out a comfortable 8-6 winner, giving up two goals in the last 90 seconds. USA goalkeeper Betsy Armstrong said it was typical of clashes with Canada. “Games between us are always so competitive. We are huge rivals. This year is pretty big and we want to get as much experience as we can. We have really found our game on defence. It’s a lot tighter than we have been at this tournament. We have given up some penalties but the rest of the defence has been good. We need just some minor adjustments.”

Canadian head coach Pat OATEN said: “We played a better game today than we did yesterday against Spain. The goal this game was to play all 13 players with even minutes, which we did. We are missing (Christine) ROBINSON with tonsillitis. I wanted to see what we could do without a veteran player. I was happy with some of the young ones. (Hanna) YELIZOVA, was one of those.” She scored three goals, including two penalty goals.

Match reports:

MATCH 13, 15:00, Quarter-final, GREECE 8 AUSTRALIA 10
Quarters: 2-2, 2-3, 2-3, 2-2

Referees: Gabor VOGEL  (HUN), Irfan SADEKOV (RUS)
Extra Man:  GRE: 3/10. AUS: 4/8
Pens: GRE: 2/2. AUS: 1/1

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

AUSTRALIA: Alicia McCORMACK, Gemma BEADSWORTH, Sophie SMITH, Rebecca RIPPON (1), Jane MORAN, Bronwen KNOX (1), Rowena WEBSTER (3), Kate GYNTHER, Glencora RALPH (1), Holly LINCOLN-SMITH (2), Ashleigh SOUTHERN (2), Nicola ZAGAME, Kelsey WAKEFIELD. Head Coach: Alexander OSADCHUK.

GRE vs AUS - credit: Russell McKinnon
GRE vs AUS - credit: Russell McKinnon

Australia played controlled water polo all game to defeat Greece 10-8. Greece tried everything and looked good in patches but Australia had the better strike rate. Australia looked the stronger of the two in the first half until Greece struck back twice late in the stanza. Holly LINCOLN-SMITH scored a slider from the top as Greece was unaware. Angeliki GEROLYMOU replied three minutes later on penalty and Antiopi MELIDONI lobbed goalkeeper Kelsey WAKEFIELD for a 2-1 lead. It was late in the quarter that Glencora RALPH finished off extra man from deep right to level — five seconds from time. Ashleigh SOUTHERN drove and gained a penalty foul and converted the goal. Rowena WEBSTER drove deep and received a cross-pass to score. She scored her second on extra man and Australia had a fortuitous 5-2 lead. Greece struck back through Triantafyllia MANOLIOUDAKI, when she firstly scored on the deep left-hand-catch position and then from left-hand catch when unguarded to close the halftime score at 5-4 in Australia’s favour. LINCOLN-SMITH and Ilektra PSOUNI traded goals with the latter from a long lob. Rebecca RIPPON scored on counter and WEBSTER netted her third with a hard shot which hit the goalkeeper and lobbed over her head into goal. Australia was back to a three-goal margin at 8-5. Stavroula ANTONAKOU converted a penalty for 8-6 at 3:32. At 1:37, Greece took a timeout but  could not convert. Australian head coach Alexander OSADCHUK, filling in for the suspended Greg McFADDEN, who was red-carded yesterday, took a timeout and SOUTHERN converted late in the possession. It took more than three minutes later for Australia to build a four-goal advantage with Bronwen KNOX stretching far to take a short pass into the hole, turn and score at 3:27. Christina TSOUKALA made it 10-7 with a deep-left shot on extra at 1:58.

MATCH 14, 16:20, Quarter-final, CHINA 13 SPAIN 12 in penalty shootout (FT: 8-8. Pens: 5-4)
Quarters: 2-2, 3-4, 0-1, 3-1. Pens: 5-4

Referees: Amber DRURY (USA), Marie-Claude DESLIERES (CAN)
Extra Man: CHN: 5/9. ESP: 4/9
Pens: CHN: 0/0.

CHINA: YANG Jun, TENG Fei (2), LIU Ping (2), SUN Yujun, HE Jin (1), SUN Yating (1), SONG Donglun (2), CHEN Yuan (1), WANG Yi, MA Huanhuan (2), SUN Huizi (1), ZHANG Lei (1), WANG Ying. Head Coach: Juan JANE GIRALT.

SPAIN: Ava COPADO, Blanca GIL (2), Ana ESPAR 1(), Roser TARRAGO, Matilde ORTIZ, Jennifer PAREJA (1), Lorena MIRANDA, Pilar PENA (1), Andrea BLAS (1), Ona MESSEGUER (3), M. Carmen GARCIA (2), Marta BACH, Laura ESTER. Head Coach: Miguela OCA.

CHN vs ESP - credit: Russell McKinnon
CHN vs ESP - credit: Russell McKinnon

It needed a penalty shootout to decide the winner with China having to come back from an 8-5 disadvantage midway through the final quarter to force the penalties. In the shootout, China was perfect but Spain was on the back foot after captain Blanca GIL on the first shot. China controlled the first part of the match with SUN Huizi scoring on the first attack with a big shot from the top. Captain SUN Yating followed more than a minute later for a comfortable start. But the goals dried up for China as Spain took a stranglehold on the match. M Carmen GARCIA was comprehensively smothered in the hole position but still managed to send the ball to the back of the net. She scored a second three minutes later, also from the hole. Ana ESPAR started the second quarter quickly with a seven-metre shot and captain Blanca GIL scored on extra from the top for a 4-2 advantage. SONG Donglun responded on extra but Spain struck twice more — Ona MESSEGUER on action and GIL on extra for 6-3. TENG Fei threw a slow lob from the top at 1:55 and LIU Ping shot from the post on extra, snapped up the rebound and shovelled in into goal for 6-5 at halftime. MESSEGUER scored from the left-hand-catch position at 2:15 in the third period, which was the only goal between breaks. China had a late timeout to no effect. Pilar PENA helped Spain to a three-goal lead two minutes into the fourth period when her shot from the top was deflected into goal. LIU netted on a cross-pass on extra at 3:35 to give China some hope. A minute later, ZHANG Lei drove deep right and lobbed Ava COPADO for 8-7. Spain went to a timeout at 2:19 but muffed the shot. China attacked but SUN Yujun was called for a turnover.  PENA’s backhand shot at the other end was too soft to penetrate. China took the offensive into the final minute WANG Yi shot and missed. GARCIA was called for turnover and China called a timeout at 0:23 in a bid for an equaliser and penalty shootout. The ball worked around the arc and finally MA was given the task to shoot from six metres and she scored for 8-8 with four seconds left. Spain went to a timeout. The ball went to GIL, who sucked in the foul but had her shot blocked and the game went to shootout. The shootout was relatively simple with GIL opening with a blocked shot and the remaining nine shooters scoring. Sadly, GIL departed the pool deck well ahead of her team-mates.
In a sidebar to the match, two women controlled the game in what is thought to be a first at this level — Amber DRURY (USA, left) and Marie-Claude DESLIERES (CAN).

MATCH 15, 17:40, Quarter-final, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 8 CANADA 6
Quarters: 3-1, 2-1, 2-2, 1-2

Referees: Jurgen HAUSCHE (GER), German MOLLER (ARG)
Extra Man: USA 2/9. CAN: 1/6
Pens: USA 0/0. CAN: 3/3


CANADA: Rachel RIDDELL, Krystina ALOGBO (1), Katrina MONTON, Emily CSIKOS (2), Joelle BEKHAZI, Whitney GENOWAY, Rosanna TOMIUK, Dominique PERREAULT, Monika EGGENS, Hanna YELIZAROVA (3), Tara CAMPBELL, Marina RADU, Serena BREDIN. Head Coach: Pat OATEN.

The reigning champion breezed into the semifinals with an accomplished victory over neighbour Canada. The North Americans all showed spirit but it was the southern team that came up trumps against a defiant Canada who came back into the play with the last two goals inside the final 90 seconds. Canada scored the opening goal through Emily CSIKOS with a deflection from seven metres. The USA rattled in the next four goals with Kelly RULON from five metres, Courtney MATHEWSON from deep left and RULON from five metres to bring up quarter time. Brenda VILLA scored from the top for 4-1 but not until four minutes into the second quarter after a good defensive game.  The youngster Hanna YELIZAROVA scored a narrow-angled goal on extra for 4-2 but captain Elsie WINDES scored from five metres 34 seconds from halftime to lead 5-2. Annika DRIES scored from close in on extra on the second attack of the third period. YELIZAROVA nailed a penalty goal for Canada soon after. Melissa SEIDEMANN scored from deep right midway through the period and CSIKOS claimed her second goal on penalty 19 seconds from the buzzer for 7-4. Both teams shut up shop in the final quarter with the USA gaining a timeout on the swim-up but gaining nothing on the scoresheet. The same happened for Canada at 4:18 and YELIZAROVA’s sweep-arm shot from deep left creased the crossbar. The USA countered and gained an extra-man play when Krystina ALOGBO was ejected, leaving Lauren SILVER to make it 8-4 at 3:14. Canada gained consolation in the YELIZAROVA penalty goal at 1:15 and was more delighted with ALOGBO’s push shot in from two metres after a cross-pass to the water at 0:39. USA called timeout at 10 seconds. The USA immediately passed the ball upfield to the Canadian goalkeeper and Canada had a timeout. The ball went to ALOGBO who backhanded but the safe Betsy ARMSTRONG stopped the ball for the USA win.

MATCH 16, 19:00, Quarter-final, ITALY 21 RUSSIA 20 in sudden-death penalty shootout (FT: 12-12. Pens: 9-8)
Quarters: 3-4, 3-3, 3-2, 3-3. Pens: 9-8

Referees: Andreas MOIRALIS (GRE), John WALDOW (NZL)
Extra Man: ITA: 6/15. RUS: 7/15
Pens: ITA: 2/2   RUS: 0/1

ITALY: Giulia GOLERO, Simona ABBATE (1), Elisa CASANOVA (2), Giulia RAMBALDI, Martina SAVIOLI, Alegra LAPI, Marta COLAIOCCO, Roberta BIANCONI (4), Giulia EMMOLO (6), Francesca POMERI (2), Aleksandra COTTI, Teresa FRASSINETTI (3), Elisa QUEIROLO (3). Head Coach: Fabio CONTI.

RUSSIA: Maria KOVTUNOFSKAYA, Nadezhda FEDOTOVA (2), Ekaterina PROKOFYEVA (1), Sofia KONUKH (1), Alexandra ANTONOVA (1), Natalia RYZHOVA-ALENICHEVA (1), Ekaterina LISUNOVA (3), Victoria KUROCHKINA, Ekaterina TANKEEVA (1), Olga BELYAEVA (3), Evgenia IVANOVA (4), Yulia GAUFLER, Ekaterina ZELENTSOVA (3). Head Coach: Alexander KABANOV.

ITA vs RUS - credit: Russell McKinnon
ITA vs RUS - credit: Russell McKinnon

Group winner Russia, heavily favoured to win this tournament, came up against winless Italy and came up short in a 22-attempt penalty shootout. Roberta BIANCONI was the first to hit the scoresheet with a penalty goal for Italy but Russia wanted the lead and went to 3-1 in less than two minutes. Ekaterina PROKOFYEVA converted extra from deep right. Captain Sofia KONUKH buried the ball on counter and then Olga BELYAEVA did likewise down the left side a minute later. Giulia EMMOLO converted a penalty foul, Ekaterina ZELENTSOVA lobbed goalkeeper Giulia GOLERO for 4-2 and Italian captain Elise CASANOVA made a rare appearance on the scoresheet with a goal from centre forward to close the first quarter at 4-3 to Russia. Ekaterina TANKEEVA muscled in a goal at centre forward on the first attack of the second quarter. Goals continued to be swapped as CASANOVA scored a second on extra from an excellent cross-pass; Evgenia IVANOVA from the top; BIANCONI from six metres; Ekaterina LISUNOVA from four metres and BIANCONI on extra after an Italian timeout, making the score 7-6 in favour of Russia at halftime. Then things became critical for Russia as EMMOLO scored two wonderful shots to give Italy the lead. Her first was from deep right but her second came when the Russians went on counter as the clock approached the final second of possession time. EMMOLO took a nine-metre attempt, which rifled into goal for 8-7 up. Nadezhda FEDOTOVA, who was injured earlier in the week, level with a sharp drive. BIANCONI scored her third from six metres for 9-8 at 3:02 but at 2:35, IVANOVA dropped one in from seven metres to send the teams to the final quarter at 9-9. Two minutes into the final quarter, Russia took the lead through Ekaterina PROKOFYEVA on extra man after a timeout. Italy had a timeout and EMMOLO scored her fourth on extra for 10-10. Natalia RYZHOVA-ALENICHEVA drilled one from five metres and Theresa FRASSINETTI replied with a slider on extra from the top. BELYAEVA scored on extra from the near post position at 1:13. Italy then gained extra and EMMOLO had her shot tipped over the back line at 0:19. The ball then found its way to centre forward FRASSINETTI who turned and backhanded the ball into goal at 0:12 for 12-12. Russia called a timeout and the ball made it to the hole. BIANCONI was ejected and then made the cardinal sin of playing the player after being ejected, gifting a penalty shot to Russia six seconds from time. The place was electric and the players tested the referees before the shot, taken by the ever-reliable PROKOFYEVA. When the shot came it surged high to the right and slammed into the crossbar. No-one really gained the ball but the clock read 0:00 and the game was going to extra time. Italy shot first in the shootout and missed the second shot (FRASSINETTI), hitting the right post. The next six shooters converted and then on the last shot of rotation with the win at hand, BEYAEVA had her shot blocked by GORLERO, forcing sudden death at 16-16. Three from each team scored and then Simona ABBATE had her shot blocked by Maria KOVTUNOFSKAYA’s right hand. With victory moments away, ANTONOVA shot into GORLERO. Francesca POMERI and BELYAEVA converted. Elisa QUEIROLO made it 21-20 in Italy’s favour. IVANOVA swam up and her shot was blocked by hero GORLERO for an historic Italian victory.