In the second set of matches at the FINA Women's World League Super Final in Athens, Canada caused an upset 12-10 victory over Russia and defending champion United States of America bested Greece 16-9. While perennial champion USA emerged from an extra-man-advantage goal fest, Canada had to buck the odds, giving up too many major fouls, but finishing ahead with superior action goals.
When you manage an excellent starting quarter, the battle is to maintain the momentum and keep your opposition off guard. Canada managed to protect what was a fantastic 5-1 start, never letting Russia level after that initial 1-1 in the Group A clash, finishing 12-10. Russia won both the middle periods and the 4-2 third three times brought it to within a goal of Canada. The bridge became too big to cross when Canada scored twice at the top of the fourth from the centre-forward position for a three-goal margin. It was 12-10 at 1:22 and there it remained.
Captain Monika Eggens, so long a mainstay of the Canadian team, opened the scoring in the first attack, had a penalty attempt saved by Anna Karnaukh and then scored her second on extra for 3-1. It was the impetus that pushed Canada to the four-goal advantage.
Anna Timofeeva responded on extra-man attack and from the two-metre position to lift Russia to 6-4 only for Gurpreet Sohi to push it out to three. Russian captain Ekaterina Prokofyeva scored her second and third goals in the third period as her team brought the match to within one on three occasions — the last with just four seconds on the clock after Kyra Christmas was sent from the match with three fouls.
The promise of a tight finish was shattered when Sohi and Kelly McKee powered in goals from two metres minutes into the final quarter. Three extra-man goals (two to Russia) settled the scoring in Canada’s favour. Canada has been on the road for some time, completing a series loss to United States of America, but gaining valuable European training, setting it up superbly for this encouraging opening victory.
Russia had the better of the extra-man plays with six from 10 while Canada converted just two from three. Both goalkeepers, Karnaukh and Claire Wright (CAN), made seven stops.
Defending champion United States of America came away with the all-important opening Group B victory in what was a technical match and an equally enthralling extra-man attack count where only three attempts from 15 missed the target. USA emerged a triumphant 16-9 victor. It was a battle of the foul board as USA was nearly perfect with nine from 10 attempts and Greece not far behind with six from eight. Whereas in the earlier match it was all about action goals, here both teams practised hard on their superiority plays.
Three North Americans garnered three goals — Madeline Musselman, Rachel Fattal and Stefanie Harabalidis — and the three Plevritou sisters netted six between them for Greece.
While the final score suggests a relatively easy win for USA, it was not the case as Greece, stunned at not making the Tokyo Olympics, levelled at 3-3 through Vasiliki Plevritou late in the first period. Margarita Plevritou and captain Christina Tsoukala both brought it to within two goals before Madeline Musselman netted her third with a last-gasp shot on extra to close the first-half scoring at 8-5 in favour of USA.
USA stretched it to five goals early in the third with Eleftheria and Margarita Plevritou trying to bridge the margin. With Kaleigh Gilchrist slipping in a goal with three seconds left in the period, the margin was still five at the final break.
In the final period, captain Maggie Steffens, with her second, and Fattal distanced Greece at 14-7. Goals were shared and Fattal finished the scoring with her third from action after her previous shots were on a big second-quarter counter and her second from extra-man.
Ashleigh Johnson spent the entire match in goal for USA, dragging down 11 saves. Ioanna Stamatopoulou made eight blocks for Greece.
Full statistics — http://results.microplustiming.com/athens2021