Russell McKinnon, FINA Media Committee

Shanghai, China, June 6.— There was excitement aplenty on the opening day of the FINA Women’s World League Super Final at the Match Natatorium here today.

From the opening clash, which went to a penalty shootout — where seven attempts missed — before Canada won 11-10 over Hungary, to the power-packed 18-9 success for Russia over Japan, the tournament was starting on the right note.

Reigning champion United States of America began strongly and finally overcame Netherlands 6-4 in the third encounter.

With a nearly packed house, China then took on Australia in the final face-off and controlled from the start for an exciting 14-10 victory.

 

Progress points:

Group A: Russia 3, USA 3, Netherlands 0, Japan 0.

Group B: China 3, Canada 2, Hungary 1, Australia 0.

 

Match 1. 15:00, Group B, HUNGARY 10 CANADA 11 in penalty shootout (FT: 9-9. Pens: 1-2)

Quarters: 3-3, 1-2, 3-2, 2-2. Pens: 1-2

Referees: Svetlana Dreval (RUS), Martina Kunikova (SVK)

Penalties: Nil

Extra Man: HUN:  2/7. CAN: 0/6.

Teams:

HUNGARY: Edina Gangl, Dora Czigany, Dora Antal (1), Dorottya Szilagyi (4), Gabriella Szucs, Orsolya Takacs (1), Anna Illes, Rita Keszthelyi (2), Ildiko Toth, Barbara Bujka, Dora Csabai (2), Noemi Somhegyi, Orsolya Kaso. Head Coach: Attila Biro.

CANADA: Jessica Gaudreault, Krystina Alogbo, Axelle Crevier (1), Emma Wright (3), Monika Eggens (2), Kyra Christmas (3), Joelle Bekhazi (2), Elyse Lemay, Hayley McKelvey, Christine Robinson, Gurpreet Sohi, Shae Fournier, Claire Wright. Head Coach: Haris Pavlidis.

Report:

This match was destined to go to a penalty shootout, as it was so close throughout. Canada opened the scoring, trailed by one and regained the lead only for Hungary to level by quarter time. Canada went two up — the biggest difference in the match — but Hungary levelled. Each time Canada led, Hungary groped its way back and took only its second lead of the match at 2:37 in the final quarter for 9-8 when Dora Csabai from deep left after an extra-man period had expired. Canada went down on what appeared its final attack and gained an extra-man attack with one second left on possession and Kyra Christmas made sure of the equaliser one the first pass. The final Hungarian shot was blocked by Jessica Gaudreault, who had an excellent day in the cage. The shootout was almost a farce as rusty bodies seemingly had extreme difficulty in carving out vital goals. Canada went one up in the first two shots, Hungary equalised in the second two and then five straight misses left Monika Eggens with the last shot of the initial rotation to claim the match, which she did. Four shots were blocked or tipped, two hit the wood and one went wide — extraordinary at this level.



Picture: Russell McKinnon

 

Match 3, 16:20, Group A, RUSSIA 18 JAPAN 9

Quarters: 5-1, 5-2, 3-3, 5-3

Referees: Liang Zhang (CHN), Marcela Mauss (GER)

Penalties: Nil

Extra Man: RUS:  4/5. JPN: 1/3.

Teams:

RUSSIA: Anastasia Verkhoglyadova, Daria Gerzanich (1), Ekaterina Prokofyeva (3), Elvina Karimova (4), Maria Borisova, Olga Gorbunova, Alena Serzhantova (1), Anastasia Simanovich (5), Anna Timofeeva (1), Tatiana Tolkunova (1), Veronika Vakhitova, Daria Ryzhkova (2), Anna Karnaukh. Head Coach: Aleksandr Gaydukov.

JAPAN: Miyuu Aoki, Yumi Arima (1), Yuri Kazama, Shino Magariyama, Chiaki Satanoue, Minori Yamamoto (1), Akari Inaba (3), Yuki Niizawa (1), Kana Hosoya, Misaki Noro (1), Marina Tokumoto (2), Kotori Suzuki, Minani Shioya. Head Coach: Makiko Izuo.

Report:

By asserting its authority early, Russia took the match by the scruff and had it wrapped up by halftime. Japan was never lacking in speed, strength or desire, but efficiency was lacking at times — that and the greater experience of the Russians. The third quarter witnessed Japan reaching a higher level, taking chances and earning exclusions and leading 3-2 until the final five seconds. Russia had difficulty in following through on some excellent chances in the final period, allowing Japan to score three consecutive goals for 16-9 before slipping two past Japan’s Miyuu Aoki in the last 31 seconds. Akari Inaba was dynamic for Japan, scoring three from close to goal and Minori Yamamoto was finally rewarded for her tireless effort with a goal on a short drive. This meant the second half was a triumph for the Asian team, pointing to a better week ahead. Russia was cohesive, stringing together telling combinations with selfless passing into free players and showed that it will advance far in the competition. Anastasia Simanovich showed her class with five goals from five different movements and positions.


 
Picture: Russell McKinnon 

 

Match 4, 17:40, Group A, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 6 NETHERLANDS 4

Quarters: 3-0, 1-2, 2-2, 0-0

Referees: Filippo Gomez (ITA), Marie-Claude Deslieres (CAN)

Penalties: USA: 0/1.

Extra Man: USA: 0/9. NED: 0/9.

Teams:

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Gabby Stone, Maddie Musselman, Melissa Seidemann, Rachel Fattal, Mary Brooks, Maggie Steffens (2), Jordan Raney, Kiley Neushul (3), Aria Fischer (1), Jamie Neushul, Makenzie Fischer, Alys Williams, Mia Rycraw. Head Coach: Adam Krikorian.

NETHERLANDS: Laura Aarts, Miloushka Smit, Genee Dagmar (2), Catharina van der Sloot (1), Genee Amarens, Nomi Stomphorst, Marloes Nijhuis, Brigit Mulder, Maud Megens, Laura van der Graaf (1), Lieke Klaassen, Kitty-Lynn Joustra, Debby Willemsz. Head Coach: Arno Havenga.

Report:

USA has the current credentials and the Dutch credentials from 2008. These teams have dominated the Olympics since then. Tonight, before a packed stadium, both teams showed they were willing to display their skills and get the better of each other. USA rattled in two goals to start the match and five minutes later a third for a first-quarter shutout. Netherlands responded with two late in the second quarter and then USA captain and twice world player of the year Maggie Steffens made it 4-2 to close the first half. Genee Dagmar scored either side of a driving Kiley Neushul pair for 6-4 as the action remained at high intensity. USA had a chance to go three up when Mel Seidemann stepped up to the penalty line, but Dutch goalkeeper Debby Willemsz was equal to the task and blocked the shot — the eighth penalty of the day not to cross the line. Willemsz shut down a USA two on one early in the fourth, keeping her team well in the match. It was a torrid final quarter with many major fouls going undetected as neither team managed to breach the defence. The Dutch had a chance to set up a quick shot after a timeout with 51 seconds left and two goals down, but the shot option was poor and easily defended. USA had secured the first strike in its defence of the crown. The match provided two firsts for the week and something that might not be repeated — a goalless quarter and zero goals on extra-man attack.



Picture: Russell McKinnon
 

 

Match 2. 19:30, Group B, AUSTRALIA 10 CHINA 14

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

Referees: Diana Dutilh (NED), Adil Aimbetov (KAZ)

Penalties: Nil

Extra Man: AUS: 4/6. CHN: 4/8.

Teams:

AUSTRALIA: Lilian Hedges, Amy Ridge, Elle Armit (4), Bronte Halligan (1), Julia Barton, Alice Williams, Rowie Webster (4), Jessica Zimmerman, Kelly O’Leary, Chloe Barr (1), Morgan Baxter, Madeleine Steere, Lea Yanitsas. Head Coach: Sakis Kechagias.

CHINA: Lin Peng, YaNan Bi, XiaoHan Mei (1), DunHan Xiong (1), GuanNan Niu (3), Ning Guo (1), YiWen Lu, Cong Zhang (2), ZiHan Zhao (4), SanFeng Nong, Xiao Chen, Jing Zhang (2), YuTing Xie. Head Coach: DaLi Gong.

Match report:

China had the better of the first half after the match was level at 1-1 and 2-2. There was joy for Australia at 3-4, but the huge crowd was ecstatic with the 7-4 halftime advantage. China scored twice on counter, netted a sharp extra-man goal and generally gave Australia no room in which to take effective shots. Indeed, skipper Rowie Webster, one of only two Rio Olympians in the team (goalkeeper Lea Yanitsas is the other), scored from well outside. It was the manner in which China drove, defended, passed with precision and shot that had the Aussie Stingers reeling. Australia was trying hard and new Greek coach Sakis Kechagias, who formerly mentored his country’s national teams, was at a loss as to what to do. After one timeout in the third period, Australia used all its 20 seconds and a few more for Ellie Armit to score from the near post. She scored from centre forward soon after, even though pushed out to five metres for 6-9. China, however, had a response for each goal with ZiHan Zhao scoring her third for 10-6. The Chinese press meant Australia had to fire from afar, as Webster proved again, from 9m, with two seconds left in the third quarter, for 10-7. No one was leaving the stadium. Australia switched goalkeepers, which spurred GuanNan Niu into action with her second and third goals in 24 seconds for 12-7. Armit claimed a third from two metres and Webster backhanded one in from the same position for 9-12 at 4:52. There was still a breath of a chance for the Stingers. China, through strong defensive angles, nullified the Aussie offence with excellent skills throughout the team. Zhao made sure of the win with a bouncer from the top for 13-9 with just 1:46 remaining. Webster gained a fourth when her shot rebounded and a defender tipped the ball into goal for 10-13 at 0:17 and Cong Zhang provided the final goal inside the last second for 10-14, finishing what was an exciting and entertaining match.

 



Picture: Russell McKinnon