Greece and Russia to play for the title
The semi-final day brought some unusual scenes in the women’s Europa Cup Super Final in Pontevedra (ESP). Greece beat the Netherlands 8-6 as the Dutch had a 17-minute blackout while their rivals rushed to an 8-3 lead after being 2-3 down. Russia managed to overcome Spain winning 9-8 as the hosts missed a couple of penalties in the most crucial period of the match. It means that Greece and Russia will play for the historical first title.
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The Netherlands looked strong in the first period, when Catharina van der Sloot’s blast put them 3-2 ahead two seconds before the break no one would have thought that the next time the Dutch scored Greece would be 3-8 up. It happened, though. As the Greek defence tightened up the Dutch began losing their focus and confidence. It turned out to be a blackout, somewhat forced by the well-organised defending of the rival which kept on scoring in the meantime. This lasted for 17:19 minutes and the 0-6 run decided the outcome. The Dutch had a late surge but didn’t have any real chance for a comeback.
Beatriz Ortiz netted the first three goals for Spain and the home side led 2-3 early in the second when the Russians took control, netted three goals and killed two men-downs en route. This surge ruined the edge of the Spaniards who looked a bit unbalanced in the following period as the Russians earned a three-goal lead (8-5). Then Judith Forca stepped up and with two brilliant lobs she brought the hosts back to the match, though Anna Espar’s missed penalty postponed to go even late in the third. Espar then showed her real self, netted a great goal from action in the fourth, but Elvina Karimova’s fine shot from a 6 on 5 put the Russians ahead again (9-8), with 5:19 to go. Spain got another golden chance to equalise but this time Ortiz couldn’t even shoot the ball from the penalty as it slipped out of her hand. The hosts had three more man-ups to save the game to a shootout (though that didn’t promise them too much based on the latest happenings…) but they couldn’t beat the Russians’ defence, much to the sadness of the capacity crowd.
It means that the hosts will play for the bronze medal against the Netherlands from Saturday noon, while Greece and Russia can go for the historical first Europa Cup title.
The game for the 5th place produced a fierce battle, Olympic silver medallist Italy managed to keep the European champion Hungarians on a single goal for the first half. The Setterosa went 5-2 up but the Magyars had some better spells, got a chance to go even but missed a man-up at 6-5. With a fine goal Italy sealed its win – credits went to Roberta Bianconi who netted 5 in the game.
NED v GRE
Arno Havenga, head coach, Netherlands:
“After 3-2 we simply lost our focus and couldn’t finish our attacks well, our shots were weak. At the same time, some individual mistakes in defence allowed the Greeks to put the ball to the centre and since they have two really great centre-forwards they made good use of these opportunities. It’s a pity we couldn’t play in the final here but these games offer a good opportunity to learn from our mistakes.”
Georgios Morfesis, head coach, Greece
“We played very good in defence, this was the key today. We knew the Netherlands usually had a very good start so we also had to enter strong into the game and we just did that. Then we could take advantage of the great performance of our goalkeeper.”
RUS v ESP
Andrei Belofastov, assistant coach, Russia:
“The most important thing was today that the girls were very stable psychologically, whatever happened they stayed focused. They knew almost every move of the Spanish players, they read their game, especially our man-down defence worked really well. In the past we lost to this strong team every time but today we managed to show our best and this winning spirit prevailed.”
Miguel Oca, head coach, Spain:
“We made way too many mistakes especially in front. Even we were organised in offence, we created our opportunities but sometimes the Russian defenders blocked well, sometimes we couldn’t put away the ball. It was difficult to come back from three goals down against such a strong team, we managed to do that which is positive but we couldn’t make our chances in the decisive moments.”
ITA v HUN
Fabio Conti, head coach, Italy:
“It was a better performance than yesterday, our decision-making improved around the 5m line this helped us to be a bit more effective in offense and score more. The defence was more or less fine at least in this period of the season. We use these games to test ourselves and to see what we have to improve. It’s true that Roberta Bianconi had a great match but I guess she would be happier if she had been able to show something similar yesterday. We, coaches see the games a bit differently, while I’m happy with Roberta’s performance I put bigger focus on the team’s efforts since this is what really counts.”
Attila Biro, head coach, Hungary
“For sure, we didn’t deserve to win this game though I think Italy didn’t deserve that either. It was a really equal match with modest performance from both sides. Our game was slightly better than the day before but still lacked many things. The first half was too slow, too soft once again and this turned out to be the main reason for our loss. Yeah, Greta Gurisatti might win the goal beauty contest, it was two brilliant moves from her but surely she would give this away in exchange for a win.”
Europa Cup, Women’s Super Final, Day 2
Netherlands v Greece 6-8
Russia v Spain 9-8
For places 5-6
Italy v Hungary 7-6
Schedule for Saturday
Bronze medal game
12.00 Netherlands v Spain
Europa Cup Final
14.00 Greece v Russia