Super Final 2013 (Women): China-Russia Super Final gold-medal clash

World League

BEIJING, China (June 5) - China will play Russia for gold on day 6 of the FINA Women’s Water Polo World League Super Final at the Water Cube in Beijing on Thursday. China thrilled a huge crowd with a 9-7 victory over Olympic champion United States of America in the first semifinal and Russia outlasted Hungary 12-9 in the other.

Remarkably, such is the closeness and competitiveness of this tournament that Russia was winless after the three days of group matches and China, despite two victories, only finished third in its group.

The tournament has been a fantastic success and the fact that Olympic medallists Spain (silver) and Australia (bronze) went to a penalty shootout was testament to the fact that women’s water polo at the elite level is closer than anyone could predict.

Spain held Australia at bay for most of the match before the Oceania team drew level and forced a shootout that Spain won comfortably. The fulltime score was 10-10 and China won the shootout 4-3, but had the game in the bag at 14-12 before Australia took the last shot to narrow the final margin to one.

Italy, who lost to China 11-9 the day before, beat Canada 13-9 on a day when one-goal wins were hard to come by, unlike the rest of the week.

China is yet to win a medal of any colour in the World League while Russia has a complete set. China’s best performance was silver at the 2011 FINA World Championships.

USA has never won a bronze, but could add to its excellent record of seven golds and one silver. Hungary has two silver medals.

Match reports:

Match 17: 14:40, 5-8 Semifinal, AUSTRALIA 13 SPAIN 14 in penalty shootout (FT: 10-10. Pens: 3-4)
Quarters: 1-2, 4-3, 2-4, 3-1. Pens: 3-4
Referees: Alexey KAPRIVAN (RUS), Kunihiro MAKIHASHI (JPN)
Extra Man: AUS: 7/12. ESP: 1/6
Pens: AUS: 1/1

AUSTRALIA: Lea BARTA, Jayde APPEL, Hannah BUCKLING, Holly LINCOLN-SMITH (1), Isobel BISHOP, Bronwen KNOX (3), Rowena WEBSTER (4), Glencora RALPH (1), Zoe ARANCINI, Ashleigh SOUTHERN (3), Keesja GOFERS, Nicola ZAGAME (1), Kelsey WAKEFIELD. Head Coach: Greg McFADDEN.
SPAIN: Laura ESTER, Marta BACH, Anna ESPAR (3), Roser TARRAGO (3), Matilda ORTIZ, Jennifer PAREJA (1), Lorena MIRANDA, Pilar PENA (3), Andrea BLAS (1), Ona MESEGUER (1), Maica GARCIA (1), Laura LOPEZ (1), Patricia HERRERA. Head Coach: Miguel OCA.

This was the clash of two medallists from last year’s London Olympic Games. Both teams were expected to be at the sharp end but themselves in the 5-8 crossover. Both teams enjoyed the lead and Australia needed a 3-1 final quarter to force the shootout but could not prevail.

Anna ESPAR set the game alight with the two opening goals from the right side of the pool. They were a long time apart and Ashleigh SOUTHERN responded on extra at 1:52.

There was more action in the second quarter as captain Jennifer PAREJA and Maica GARCIA progressed Spain’s advantage to 4-1. It then became the turn of the Olympic bronze-medal team with SOUTHERN adding her second on penalty, Rowena WEBSTER backhanded one from centre forward and SOUTHERN converted extra-man attack. This was by 4:18. Australia took a timeout at 1:26 and captain Bronwen KNOX converted for the lead at 5-4. Roser TARRAGO hen started her dream run with six-metre shot at 0:42 to close the half scoring.

WEBSTER regained the lead for Australia with a shot from the top on extra, but TARRAGO from the left and Pilar PENA on extra had nullified that and Spain was 7-6 ahead. Nicola ZAGAME levelled on extra from the top and TARRAGO scored her third from the left, followed a minute and a half later by PENA from the same position for a 9-7 three-quarter-time advantage.

WEBSTER pulled one back on extra at 5:59 in the fourth quarter. ESPAR collected her third at left-hand catch, sending the ball into the top right for 10-8. KNOX made it 10-9 with a backhand effort from two metres at 1:57. At 1:12, Australia called timeout and on the stroke of 20 seconds WEBSTER backhanded in the goal from two metres for 10-10. Spain used two timeouts in the final 52 seconds but to no avail, sending the game to shootout.

Spain won the toss and sent Ona MESEGUER to the line first. She converted; SOUTHERN’s attempt was blocked; Andrea BLAS scored; KNOX scored; TARRAGO hit the left upright and ZAGAME’s shot was blocked. ESPAR and Holly LINCOLN-SMITH converted for 12-13, meaning Laura LOPEZ needed the goal for victory, which she got. Glencora RALPH scored for Australia to register a 13-14 scoreline, which was Australia’s right.

AUS vs ESP - credit: Russell McKinnon


Greg McFADDEN (AUS) — Head Coach
“They’re the Olympic silver medallists and we had our opportunities and unfortunately didn’t make the most of them. We definitely played well in patches, the best this team has played. We limited their centre forwards and only had six fouls against us, the first in a long time that we have been at that end of the count. To lose in a penalty shootout against the Olympic silver medallists is not the end of the world. To have to play a shootout is a great experience, mentally.”

Holly LINCOLN-SMITH (AUS) — Centre forward
“There are positives for us with a new team in a new cycle. We learn our weaknesses and strengths. We only have to improve the little things and we could be the best in the world. Not now, but we will get there in time. We are playing solidly against the Olympic silver medallists. Come the World Championships and we make few mistakes, then we will go close.”

Miguel OCA (ESP) — Head Coach
“We played well today. Yesterday we were not so fresh. The games are all being played at a very good level, fighting with the best teams in the world. We are on a good line and as we work this way you can win some and lose some. We have to get used to playing these kinds of games, in general, games that are decided in the last minute.”

Matilda ORTIZ (ESP) — nicknamed ‘The Panther’
“Winning in a penalty shootout was really good, but it means you work hard the whole match. It was important to win as we lost yesterday. The team is playing really well but the best thing we are working as a team in and out of the water. We are playing hard as a team and that is the secret for us.”

Match 18: 17:20, 5-8 Semifinal, ITALY 13 CANADA 9
Quarters: 3-3, 4-1, 4-3, 2-2
Referees: Balasz FEKETE (HUN), Edmundo RODRIGUES (BRA)
Extra Man: ITA: 5/10. CAN: 2/9
Pen: ITA: 1/1

ITALY: Elena GIGLI, Francesca POMERI, Arianna GARIBOTTI (2), Federica RADICCHI, Elisa QUEIROLO, Rosaria AIELLO, Tania DI MARIO (2), Roberta BIANCONI (4), Giulia EMMOLO (4), Valeria PALMIERI, Aleksandra COTTI (1), Teresa FRASSINETTI, Giulia GORLERO. Head Coach: Fabio CONTI.
CANADA: Michele RELTON, Krystina ALOGBO (1), Katrina MONTON, Emma WRIGHT (3), Monika EGGENS (1), Joelle BEKHAZI (2), Sophie BARON LA SALLE, Dominique PERRAULT (1), Carmen EGGENS, Christine ROBINSON, Stephanie VALIN, Marina RADU, Nicola COLTERJOHN. Head Coach: Guy BAKER.

Italy moved into the play-off for fifth and sixth with Spain after a dominant showing over Canada. With the like of Giulia EMMOLO and Roberta BIANCONI on fire and a superb performance from goalkeeper Elena GIGLI, Italy looked assured of the win.

Arianna GARIBOTTI started the scoring with a skip shot on the deep left inside the first half minute. Emma WRIGHT and Joelle BEKHAZI, from an identical position on the right, scored the next two. Giulia EMMOLO and Roberta BIANCONI scored the next two goals, giving Italy a 3-2 lead. Dominique PERRAULT scored from deep right at 0:44 to close the first quarter.

Canada went into the lead through 16-year-old WRIGHT, from the same position at PERRAULT had scored. Italy was stung into action and EMMOLO and COTTI on extra from opposite sides of the pool had the match back in Italy’s grasp at 5-4. Captain Tania DI MARIO showed her class with consecutive goals from wide on the right, the first with a lob and the seconds with a skip shot, 13 seconds from time for a 7-4 advantage at the long break.

BEKHAZI used her left arm to good effect scoring the first and third goals of the third period with GARIBOTTI gaining her third for 8-6. Italy then pushed the margin to four as EMMOLO from 8m and BIANCONI from the penalty line produced one of the biggest gaps of the week. Italy went to a unrewarded timeout at 3:12. Monika EGGENS scored from the left side and well out, but BIANCONI sent in an 8m lob at 1:03 to regain the four-goal lead at 11-7.

Canada’s timeout ploy at 5:24 in the fourth yielded a Krystina ALOGBO goal with a close pass on the near-post position. BIANCONI struck again on extra from the top left and at 3:18 WRIGHT converted extra for Canada and 12-9. EMMOLO stunned Canada with a sharp, swift shot early on extra and the match was almost over. Canada called a timeout but their was no further scoring. Italy was through to the fifth-sixth play-off.

CAN vs ITA - credit: Russell McKinnon


Fabio CONTI (ITA) — Head Coach
“It was a good game, but when you arrive at this part of the tournament and you are playing for fifth to eighth, it is another kind of game. After the first quarter we tried a different motivation and changed our plan. We wanted to play this game like a final, for the future.”

Giulia EMMOLO (ITA) — four goals
“We approached the match quarter by quarter and did not think of the result. It is important for us to do this well and find the solution through our training.” On her shooting, she said: “I must work harder for the World Championships and beyond.”

Krystina ALOGBO (USA) — Captain
“We just wanted to play our own game. We wanted to come out sharp and swim hard and work on different defences, different styles, with different referees. Also one of our goals was to work on power play percentages. We fell away from the game today and played their game instead.” On tomorrow’s clash with Australia for seventh and eighth, she said: “We will approach them like every team. It will be a rematch of the first game (won 12-8 by Australia). It will be an indicator of character, win or lose.”

Match 19: 16:00, 1-4 Semifinal, CHINA 9 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 7
Quarters: 1-0, 3-2, 3-2, 2-3
Extra Man: CHN: 3/10. USA: 2/4
Pens: USA: 0/2

CHINA: YANG Jun, TENG Fei, LIU Ping (1), SUN Yujun (1), HE Jin (1), SUN Yating (1), SONG Donglun (2), ZHU Yajing, MEI Xiaohan, MA Huanhuan (2), ZHANG Cong (1), ZHANG Lei, WANG Ying. Head Coach: Alexander KLEYMENOV.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Elizabeth ARMSTRONG, Lauren SILVER (2), Melissa SEIDEMANN, Danielle WARDE, Caroline CLARK, Margaret STEFFENS (1), Courtney MATHEWSON (1), Kiley NEUSHAL, Jillian KRAUS, Kelly RULON, Annika DRIES (2), Kameryn CRAIG (1), Tumuaialii ANAE. Head Coach: Adam KRIKORIAN.

Nothing prepared USA for this match. China was pumped and went at it from the first whistle, gaining the kudos and a berth in the gold-medal final. To see the Olympic champion restricted to two goals in the first half was a humbling sight.

It took time for the teams to sort each other out and the first quarter was a dour, defensive game. MA Huanhuan scored the only goal of the period form the top on extra.

SONG Donglun started the second period with a beautiful bouncer into the top of the net and two minutes later captain SUN Yujun drove down the right to score for a stunning 3-0. China used its first timeout early to no effect. Kami CRAIG opened USA’s scoring from centre forward with what seemed an easy effort. LIU Ping converted extra from outside five metres and China was 4-1 ahead. Lauren SILVER drew the game closer for USA on extra to close the half’s scoring. Courtney MATHEWSON hit the crossbar on a penalty attempt at 6:46 in the third period. SONG was on song again with an extra-man conversion for 5-2. MATHEWSON made some amends on extra at 4:44 and the SILVER had a penalty attempt, only for the in-form YANG Jun to block. Two penalty misses in three and a half minutes was not a good time for the USA. International newcomer MEI Xiaohan scored her first goal of the week with a rocket from 8m. SILVER faked and shot into top right for 6-4. MA closed the period with an 8m shot with two seconds remaining for a handsome 7-4.

USA came back in the fourth with a vengeance, thanks to two Annika DRIES shots from two metres. The first she turned and bounced the ball and the second she didn’t bother to turn, just backhanding it into the net. Maggie STEFFENS levelled the game for the first time at 7-7 with a shot from the right. ZHANG Cong would have had the live television broadcast viewers excited with a bouncer from the deep left at 4:50. USA used up a timeout for no result at 3:02 and China went 9-7 ahead through HE Jin on extra, accepting a pass from the top on the post position to turn and ram the ball over the line. China went to a timeout after another fantastic YANG save but the lob was late and hit the crossbar. USA used its second timeout at 0:55 with the match slipping away. The idea was to get Kiley NEUSHAL to blast a shot early, which she did but YANG saved, HE had a shot at the far end, USA lost the ball on attack and the game was over with China through to the gold-medal final.

CHN vs USA - credit: Russell McKinnon


Alexander KLEYMENOV (RUS) — China Head Coach
“We played very strong today. I might be Russian, but my heart is with China. The team listens and now all China is united, together. The team has been up some years and down others, but now it is a very big family.”

Adam KRIKORIAN (USA) — Head Coach
On the slow start: “The last three or four games that has been the story for us. We are having trouble from the perimeter shooting the ball. We’re tired. China played great. For some of our team it’s the first matches since the Olympic Games. We have a long way to go, but I am proud of the way we battled back. It was a tough game and we missed two penalties. China is good. Full of energy and a tough team to beat.”

Match 20: 18:40, 1-4 Semifinal, HUNGARY 9 RUSSIA 12
Quarters: 2-3, 0-1, 3-5, 4-3
Referees: Marie-Claude DESLIERES (CAN), Andrew CARNEY (AUS)
Extra Man: HUN: 2/6. RUS: 7/9
Pens: HUN: 0/1. RUS: 2/2

HUNGARY: Orsolya KASO, Anna ILLES (2), Dora ANTAL (1), Ibolya MISKOLCZI (1), Gabriella SZUCS, Orsolya TAKACS (2), Brigitta HORVATH, Rita KESZTHELYI (1), Ildiko TOTH, Barbara BUJKA, Krisztina GARDA, Kata MENCZINGER (2), Edina GANGL. Head Coach: Andras MERESZ.
RUSSIA: Anna USTYUKHINA, Diana ANTONOVA, Ekaterina PROKOFYEVA (1), Elvina KARIMOVA (2), Alexandra ANTONOVA (2), Olga BELOVA (1), Ekaterina LISUNOVA (3), Anna GRINEVA (1), Anna TIMOFEEVA (1), Olga BELIAEVA (1), Evgeniya IVANOVA, Ksenia KRIMER, Anna KARNAUKH. Head Coach: Mikhail NAKORYAKOV.

It was a battle for the best in Europe and Russia did not disappoint with what turned out to be a dour match at stages.

Hungary opened through Dora ANTAL at 5:59 in what was a level quarter. Ekaterina LISUNOVA made it 1-1 on extra. Hungary had an excellent chance on penalty, but Ibolya MISKOLCZI sent the ball into the goalkeeper. LISUNOVA scored her second, again on extra. Kata MENCZINGER netted from the deep left for 2-2 at 1:00. Elvina KARIMOVA broke the deadlock at 0:27 on extra for the quarter-time advantage.

It took a while before a breakthrough in the second quarter with Russia using a timeout, only to score a second after the exclusion time through KARIMOVA at the four-metre line. Russia stretched the margin when Anna TIMOFEEVA drilled a shot from nine metres, gaining a slight deflection en route and catching out the goalkeeper for 5-2. Rita KESZTHELYI responded from eight metres with just three seconds left on the halftime clock.

The margin stretched to four when Olga BELOVA and Anna GRINEVA both scored. Anna ILLES made it 7-4 from deep left, then Alexandra ANTONOVA and LISUNOVA on penalty took the margin to five goals. A Hungarian timeout was unrewarded. Olga BELIAEVA scored off the left-post position on extra for 10-4. Hungary was not down and out. Three successive goals gave hope with MISKOLCZI (7m lob) and Kata MENCZINGER (extra) closing the third period at 10-6. Captain Orsolya TAKACS scored off the under side of the crossbar form six metres at 7:10 in the fourth quarter. Ekaterina PROKOFYEVA took a foul 10m out and swiftly sent the ball skimming across the top of the water into goal for 11-7. A Russian timeout did nothing to the scoreboard. ILLES scored her second from the deep left on extra for 11-8 at 3:21. The game was safe when Russia earned a penalty shot, which Alexandra ANTONOVA converted at 3:03 for 12-8. TAKACS completed the scoring from the top in the last 11 seconds for 12-9, not enough to make the gold-medal final.

HUN vs RUS - credit: Russell McKinnon


Andras MERESZ (HUN) — Head Coach
“That game was between two very tired teams with a lot of physicality. I am empty right now. Tomorrow, I think, there are two (important) games and always the bronze-medal match is harder. I hope I can power my team to victory.”