Khanty-Mansiysk, Day 1: Action aplenty on opening day of FINA Women’s World Cup

Water Polo World Cup

HUN vs AUS - credit: Russell McKinnon

Australia, United States of America, Spain and China were winners on the opening day of the FINA Women’s Water Polo World Cup at the Ugra State University Sports Complex.

In Group A, Spain went into counter-attack heaven with a 34-3 victory over World Cup newcomer Singapore with world and European champion Roser Tarrago netting seven goals. Russia lost  the final match in a gripping 14-13 encounter with China to end the day in front of a capacity house — there was a large screen outside the venue. Russian fans were not rejoicing.

In Group B, Australia gained the better of Hungary, winning 10-7 with a 4-0 final quarter in a match that saw both head coaches censured with Hungary’s Andras Meresz being red-carded in the final seconds. Australia was the silver medallist in Christchurch four years ago while Hungary finished sixth. United States of America warmed up its defence of the trophy with a comfortable 18-1 victory over South Africa, playing this event for the first time.

Game reports

Match 1: 14:30, Group B, HUNGARY 7 AUSTRALIA 10
Quarters: 2-3, 2-2, 3-1, 0-4

Referees: Jaume Teixido (ESP), Joao Cardenuto (BRA)
Extra Man: HUN: 1/7. AUS: 2/5.
Pens: HUN 1/1. AUS: 1/1.

HUNGARY: Orsolya Kaso, Dora Czigany (1), Dora Antal (1), Hannah Kisteleki (1), Gabriella Szucs (1), Orsolya Takacs (1), Anna Illes, Rita Keszthelyi (2), Ildiko Toth, Barbara Bujka, Anita Hevesi, Kata Menczinger, Edina Gangl. Head Coach: Andras Meresz.
AUSTRALIA: Lilian Hedges, Jayde Appel, Hannah Buckling (1), Bronte Colenso, Isobel Bishop, Bronwen Knox (3), Rowie Webster (3), Glencora McGhie, Zoe Arancini, Ashleigh Southern (1), Morgan Baxter (1), Keesja Gofers (1), Kelsey Wakefield. Head Coach: Greg McFadden.

HUN vs AUS - credit: Russell McKinnon
HUN vs AUS - credit: Russell McKinnon

Australia needed a 4-0 final quarter to shrug off Hungary and take the opening win, in a match where Hungarian head coach Andras Meresz was red-carded 3.4 seconds from fulltime for comments to the referee. At the end of the second quarter, Australian head coach Greg McFadden received a yellow card.

Australia had the better of the first quarter of the tournament with Hungary playing catch-up. The teams traded penalty goals and Ashleigh Southern sent in a 10m lob at the ended of possession for 2-1. The teams then each scored an extra-man goal with Australia’s 3-2 lead coming off international newcomer Morgan Baxter from deep right with four seconds left. Australia maintained the one-goal advantage by the long break as Gabriella Szucs equalised on action and Aussie Stingers captain Bronwen Knox, playing her 277th international, netted twice — from centre forward and deep left. Rita Keszthelyi set the pool alight with a counter-attack down the right for 5-4 two minutes from the half. Hannah Kisteleki levelled on the first attack of the second half and more than a minute later Knox showed her skills at two metres with a third strike for 6-5. Dora Antal and Keszthelyi gave Hungary the advantage to go into the final period looking much better. The goals dried up for Hungary, however, with Hannah Buckling with a slider, Keesja Gofers after the extra-man attack bringing Australia back in front. Webster closed the match with two successive goals, one a 10m lob and the last three seconds from time for 10-7.

Quarters: 3-0, 5-0, 7-0, 3-1

Referees: Alexey Krapivin (RUS), Yagi Wang (CHN)
Extra Man: USA: 3/ 8. RSA 0/3
Pens: Nil

USA: Samantha Hill, Alys Williams (1), Melissa Seidemann (2), Rachel Fattal (3), Caroline Clark (1), Maggie Steffens (1), Courtney Mathewson (2), Kiley Neushul (1), Jillian Kraus (1), Kaleigh Gilchrist, Annike Dries (1), Kameryn Craig (4), Ashleigh Johnson. Head Coach: Adam Krikorian.
SOUTH AFRICA: Anke Jacobs, Amica Hallendorf, Kieren Paley, Kim Rosslee, Carly Wessels, Samantha Shead, Chloe Bradley, Lee-Ann Keet, Christy Rawstrom, Megan Parkes, Deborah O’Hanlon (1), Kelsey White, Rebecca Thomas. Head Coach: Brad Rowe.

USA vs RSA - credit: Russell McKinnon

South Africa was always going to struggle against the Olympic, World Cup and World League champion USA, but the occasion did not over-awe the southern hemisphere team. USA was always in control and proved that all over the pool, especially at the daunted centre-forward position where USA always dominates. Coach Adam Krikorian used all his team to excellent effect and most of the field players made the score sheet. The start was hesitant at both ends of the pool as the teams were mindful of what the match meant. For South Africa it was a case of trying to get away effective shots, something that did not occur in the opening half. However, persistence paid off and Deborah O’Hanlon raised the cheers of the crowd when scoring on extra-man attack at 6:46 in the fourth for 15-1. USA did what it does best and continued at the same elevated pace until the final whistle with an 18-1 margin. It was a case of first assignment achieved for USA.

Match 4: 17:30, Group A, SPAIN 34 SINGAPORE 3
Quarters: 7-1, 8-0, 9-0, 10-2

Referees: Amber Drury (USA), Dion Willis (RSA)
Extra Man: ESP: 6/9  SIN: 1/2.
Pens: ESP: 1/1.

SPAIN: Patricia Herrera, Marta Bach, Anna Espar, Beatriz Ortiz (5), Matilde Ortiz (2), Helena Lloret (4), Clara Espar (6), Lorena Miranda, Mar Pastor (1), Roser Tarrago (7), Paula Chillida (4), Laura Vicente (5), Maria Sanchez. Head Coach: Miguel Oca.
SINGAPORE: Seet Low, Ting Koh (1), Su-Lynn Tan, Enci Kan, Adelyn Yew, Angeline Teo, Ser Han Neo (1), Lynette Tan (1), Yiwen Ng, Denise Chen, En Yuan Loke, Cheng Ong, Eunice Fu. Head Coach: Luo Nan.

ESP vs SIN - credit: Russell McKinnon

European champion Spain made sure of a good start to the tournament with a solid victory over Singapore, a relative newcomer to the international arena. Spain put pressure on the Singaporeans and jumped on loose balls, made a multitude of steals and countered at will. To Singapore’s credit, it worked hard on attack and scored on extra-man attack at 3-1 via Lynette Tan, much to the delight of the bench. Spain may be trying new players and be without superstar Jennifer Pareja, but it still had the defensive and offensive skills that will be sorely needed as the tournament goes deeper into the week. Singapore found out what it is like to contest a match against a team probably still celebrating the European crown from Budapest barely a week ago. However, even at the death when the score was piling up, Singapore still managed two goals in the final quarter while Roser Tarrago (7) and Clara Espar (6) were in fine form for Spain.

Match 2: 19:30, Group A, RUSSIA 13 CHINA 14
Quarters: 4-1, 3-6, 2-2, 4-5

Referees: Andrew Carney (AUS), Gabriella Varkonyi (HUN)
Extra Man: RUS: 3/9. CHN: 3/11.
Pens: RUS: 1/2. CHN: 2/2.

RUSSIA: Evgeniia Novoksenova, Maria Bersneva, Ekaterina Prokofyeva (4), Elvina Karimova (2), Valeriia Kolmakova (1), Olga Koryakina, Nadezhda Iarondaykina (3), Maria Borisova, Anna Kravchenko, Anna Grineva, Evgeniya Ivanova (3), Daria Ryzhkova. Anna Karnaukh. Head Coach: Mikhail Nakoriakov.
CHINA: Jun Yang, Jing Zhang (1), Ping Liu (1), Yujun Sun (3), Huili Chen (1), Yating Sun (3), Donglun Song (2), Cong Zhang (1), Zihan Zhao (1), Jianing Tian, Xinyan Wang, Guannan Niu (1), Lin Peng. Head Coach: Rick Azevedo.

RUS vs CHN - credit: Russell McKinnon

The final match of the evening, following the official opening, attracted a packed house and the mood was entirely Russian. However, in the most thrilling match of the day, if not the year at FINA events, China held sway. The crowd was buoyed by the fact that Russia had all the attack in the opening quarter and led 4-0 before China hit the board two seconds from quarter time. Russia went to 6-1 before China settled, grabbed one back before Elvina Karimova took the score and the crowd to 7-2. Chinese head coach Rick Azevedo (USA) called a timeout and whatever he said via the translator, worked. Yujun Sun netted twice in a five-goal onslaught that dulled the spectator’s fervor and had the match at 7-7, 25 seconds from halftime. Those five goals came in just over four minutes. With Russian captain Ekaterina Prokofyeva and head coach Mikhail Nakoriakov returning from that 2009 FINA youth girls’ championship victory in the same pool, it was meant to be a Russian sweep. However, China was well in the match. Prokofyeva converted a penalty to start the second half, Sun Yating replied for 8-8 and then Russia made the movement it was after, through Prokofyeva and Nadezhda Iarondaykina for 9-8. Jing Zhang equalised through penalty for 9-9 at the final break. Prokofyeva took Russia to 11-10 and Ping Liu from the top and Zihan Zhao on penalty took China to 12-11. Valeriia Kolmakova replied, Sun Yujun responded and Prokofyeva had the match at 13-13 at 2:06. Russia took a timeout to no effect and at 0:30 Yating Sun scored a classic centre-forward backhand to seal the match. Russia lost the ball on the next attack and China retained the ball, silencing the now-dejected crowd.