BRITISH GAS TEAM THROUGH TO WATER POLO FINAL
11 Jul 2009
Expectations were high for the British Gas team as they took on Slovakia for a place in the final of the LEN Women’s European Nations Trophy Water Polo Championships in Manchester.
Boosted by a full spectator gallery and an expectant atmosphere for the semi-final, the British team, sponsored by British Gas, got off to a strong start closing down space well in the early stages.
An infringement in front of the British goal resulted in a Slovakian penalty which was fired against the woodwork, with a narrow escape for Britain. A quick counter attack for Great Britain saw them take advantage of space left in the middle of the pitch and Angela Winstanley-Smith finished the move neatly to open the scoring.
Sustained pressure from the Britain Gas team saw Fran Leighton capitalise on a multi-pass build up to give GB a 2-0 lead. Chloe Wlicox showed great speed moving up the pitch, to extend the British lead to 3-0. Leighton then picked up another to make it 4-0.
Some excellent goalkeeping from Rosie Morris kept out the Slovakian team but the British goal was finally breached towards the end of the first quarter as Eva Hajkova scored a long range shot to make the score 4-1.
The British Gas team came out quickly at the start of the second quarter with Wilcox scoring her second and third goals of the match early on to take the score to 6-1.
A defensive mix up let Slovakia in, Michaela Migrova took full advantage making the score 6-2. Undaunted, The British Gas team moved to the other end with Fiona McCann scoring a quick reply.
An accurate lob from Martina Kunikova brought Slovakia back into the match with a 7-3 score line to bring the first half to a close.
Hazel Musgrove opened the scoring in the second half to score from an acute angle to give Britain an 8-3 lead. Winstanley-Smith added another two shortly after, both from close range and unselfish play from Wilcox gifted her her fourth of the match to take the score to 11-3.
With the British Gas team now looking very confident, Hannah Wild got her name on the score sheet making it 12-3. Wilcox scored another soon after to end the third quarter with a ten goal cushion.
McCann took the Slovakian defence by surprise for Britain’s 14th goal shortly after the restart.
Play moved swiftly to the other end where Migrova scored a well-taken goal to make the score 14-4 in Britain’s favour.
The British Gas team hit back straight away with a superb individual goal for Rachel Drabble, scoring her first of the match.
A fifth goal for Slovakia narrowly crept in giving Migrova her hat-trick and keeping the Slovaks in the game.
Great Britain hit back on the counter attack with Ros Griffiths scoring almost immediately; followed by another quick response as Vavroda scored for Slovakia. Winstanley-Smith then continued the tit-for-tat scoring with another goal to make the score 17-6.
Hajkova pulled another back for Slovakia to reduce Britain’s advantage.
Winstanley-Smith completed her double hat-trick with a neat finish and Wilcox completed the scoring in the final seconds of the match to end with a very convincing 19-7 victory for Great Britain.
A thrilled British captain, Ros Griffiths said after the match; “We were slow to start and they weren’t playing their defence as we thought they would so we changed it up soon after we started. They put so many counter attacks on us but both our goalies played exceptionally well.
“We are really looking forward to playing in the final. Hopefully we’ll go one better than last time and win it. The crowd were absolutely amazing tonight; they really stepped it up and helped us perform.”
The other semi final promised to be a hard-fought affair between the winners of Group A, Czech Republic, and a Ukraine side who were victorious against Portugal in yesterday’s quarter-final.
The match got off to a tentative start but the deadlock was broken by Czech Republic’s Lucie Votavova who scored a well-worked goal to open the scoring.
Ukraine got on the score sheet with three and a half minutes of the match gone, they put pressure of the Czech defence with Kseniya Kurvicheva scoring the goal.
Czech Republic came back straight away with a speedy reply from Veronika Bartunkova and were beginning to find their rhythm with Karolina Famerova adding another in quick succession.
The Ukraine team retaliated immediately with a well placed goal from Olga Shvedova to draw to a close a frantic first quarter.
A close-range clinical finish from Votavova increased the Czech lead to 4-2 early in the second quarter, closely followed by an attack on the break to complete her hat-trick.
A massive build up from Ukraine culminated in a goal for Anna Khomchik bringing the score back to 5-3.
Shortly after, a wonderful shot from Aneta Hendrychova extended the Czech Republic score, closely followed by another from Votavova to take the Czech lead to 7-3.
Hendrychova scored her second goal shortly after to extend the lead of a now rampant Czech team. A goal from an acute angle for Famerova took the score to 9-3 to bring the first half to a close.
The Czech team came out firing on all cylinders at the start of the second half with Votavova scoring an early goal.
A long range effort from Kurvicheva pulled one back for Ukraine bringing the score to 10-4.
Sustained pressure then followed from the Czech Republic culminated in a goal for Bartunkova.
Some neat passing from the Ukraine side followed, resulting in a goal for Kurvicheva which completed her hat-trick and keep them in the match. This brought the third quarter to a close with the Czech Republic leading 11-5.
A tiring Ukraine side fought well in the final quarter with Kurvicheva scoring her fourth of the match; however the Czech Republic fired straight back with another goal from Votovova taking the score to 12-6. Hendrychova and Bartunkova then added two more to take the Czech tally to 14.
Kotova and Shvedova pulled back two goals late on for Ukraine but it was merely a consolation as Czech Republic were victorious with a final score of 14-8.
The result means the Czech Republic will now face the Great Britain side in tomorrow’s final.
After the match Czech Republc’s Bartunkova said; “We are very excited and happy to be in the final. It was our goal coming into the tournament and we have accomplished it.
“Our coach gave us a plan coming into the match, I think we were quicker than them and they were tired from yesterday which helped us out.”
On a final against the British team Bartunkova said; “Great Britain are very good, there are some differences between us but it should be a good match. It will be interesting for the fans to watch and we are excited to play the home team.”
Earlier in the day the 5th/6th place play off saw Croatia and Portugal match up. Both teams were disappointed not to make the semi-final stages of the competition, as they finished as runners up in their preliminary groups, but were now playing for national pride.
Portugal got off to an excellent start, with their star player Mariana Sarmento opening the scoring with just 40 seconds of the game gone. They continued to pressurise, having a number of good chances and hitting the woodwork three times. However they failed to make the most of their early opportunities and were caught on the counter attack as Maja Kalauz equalised for Croatia.
The Croatian defence left Portugal too much space and Ines Braga capitalised to restore their lead.
A great long range effort from Sarmento increased the Portugal lead to 3-1, adding to her already impressive personal tally of 20, and ending the first quarter.
A powerful shot from the Portuguese number 9 ,Vania Vieira, further extended their lead early in the second quarter, followed by a well worked move from Portugal which saw Sarmento complete her hat-trick with some clinical finishing.
A well taken goal from Vieira capitalised on a Croatian exclusion to further extend Portugal’s lead to 6-1.
Before the half was finished Sarmento added two more goals with a well taken penalty and in the closing minute of the half created some space for herself in front of goal to add another and give Portugal an 8-1 lead at half time.
Croatia came out fighting in the second half with Lucija Topic making the most of an opportunity in front of goal to pull the score back to 8-2.
A second penalty for Sarmento was neatly finished to score her 6th goal of the match and restore Portugal’s seven goal advantage.
An extended spell of Croatian pressure on the Portuguese goal saw them unable to make the most of their opportunities as a fine display from the Portuguese keeper, Caroline Faria, kept them out as Portugal concluded a low-scoring third quarter with their 9-2 lead intact.
A defensive Portuguese team came out for the second half looking to protect their lead.
espite more Croat pressure, Portugal caught them on the counter attack causing a defensive blunder resulting a further goal for Sarmento. Croatia’s pressure finally paid off with a goal from Emmi Miljkovic to make the score 10-3 in Portugal’s favour.
Two long range goals from Sarmento proved she can score from anywhere, further increasing Portugal’s score.
An excellent long range goal from Katarina Majlat and a goalmouth effort from Karmela Tvrdic of Croatia pulled back a couple of goals in the dying seconds of the match, but it was a token effort as Portugal closed the game out for a 12-5 victory.
Portugal’s Naida Mariani said after the match; “It was a pretty good win for us. We defended well but also Mariana helped us out with the goals.
“We are a little bit disappointed not to be in the semi-finals but overall the tournament went according to plan.”
Mariana Sarmento finished her tournament with a haul of 27 goals leaving her as the tournament’s highest scorer currently although she will contest no further matches.
Tickets for tomorrow’s games are still available from the Manchester Aquatics Centre and cost £10 for adults and £5 for concessions.
The LEN Women's European Nations Trophy is an eight team tournament for female, European national teams. The event takes place from the 7th to the 12th of July 2009 and consists of a preliminary round, quarter finals, semi finals and the final. Each team usually plays one match per day and the winner is declared on the final day of competition.
Sunday 12 July
12:00 Ukraine Vs Slovakia (3rd/4th place play off)
13:30 Czech Republic Vs Great Britain (Final)
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