Thursday, July 9, 2009

Champion's Challenge II: Day three

Group A: Japan 4 (Genki Mitani, Ryuji Fukushiro, Kenji Kitazato, Naoto Shiokawa) Chile 3 (Felipe Montegu, Alexis Berzcely, Felipe Eggers)
With just seeding for the relegation play-offs at stake, Japan got a low-key tussle off to a decent start as Genki Mitani scrambled in from close range inside 100 seconds. Other than that, chances were at a premium though Kei Kawakami's sliding shot drifted wide as did Felipe Montegu's wild shot.

Ryuji Fukushiro doubled up in the 33rd minute after some pinball in the circle while Chile had their best chance on the final hooter but Matias Amoroso -after initial brilliant spadework saw his follow-up squeeze wide from four yards out.

A higher tempo second period saw Kenji Kitizato made it 3-0 with a neat finish 40 seconds into the second half before a brilliant exchange between Katsuyoshi Nagasawa and Naoto Shiokawa - the former superbly keeping the ball in play - saw the latter finish for a commanding lead in the 54th minute.

Chile, though, launched a thrilling fightback inside a minute when Felipe Montegu pulled one back and Alexis Berzcely made it a game with a spectacular reverse. Montegu had a great chance to put one in it but a lack of hurling skills meant he missed out on a high volley.

As it was, their third came with just over a minute to go when Felipe Eggers swept in but too late to nick a point.

Group B: Malaysia 4 (Ismail Abu, Hafifi Hafiz Hanafi, Tengku Abd, Faizal Saari) Russia 3 (Alexey Sergeev 2, Alexey Mamoshkin)
Malaysia - pictured, right, paying respect to the crowd pre-match - edged a thrill-fest to open the third day at the Champion's Challenge II, ending Russia's faint hopes of advancing to the semi-finals.

Malaysia made the best use of a non-stop, counter-attack battle in front of a vocal support to build up a 2-0 half-time lead through Ismail Abu's corner deflection and Hafifi Hafiz Hanifi's rebound.

Russia let three corners slip by before the break but Alexey Sergeev nailed the fourth six minutes into the second half and his side were level inside 30 seconds when Alexey Mamoshkin's reverse bobbled up and over Kumar Subramaniam.

Chances flew by at each end, with Leinster-based umpire Kris Cholewa letting the game flow well. Kelvinder Singh almost scoring one of the more outrageous 3d efforts before Tengku Abd stabbed home a corner rebound. Sergeev's drag-flick made it 3-3 in the 56th minute to raise Russian hopes once more but Faizal Saari smashed in from the top of the circle to kill the game and end Russia's chances. Malaysia top the group with three wins.

Austria and France now face a straight shoot-out for the second place.

Austria 1 (Michael Korper) France 5 (Freddie Soyez 2, Arnaud Becuwe, Mathieu Durchon 2)
France claimed the second semi-final place from Group A as they eased past Austria 5-1. The French took thew early initiative with two goals around the quarter-hour - a Freddie Soyez drag-flick and Arnaud Becuwe then spectacularly swept over Philippe Thiltges - a recent commenter on The Hook facebook page - after Mathieu Durchon brilliantly set him free.

Michael Korper's bullet corner made it a game three minutes after the break, creating a few nerves initially in the French camp before they soon got going a played some really decent hockey.

Soyez had one plucked off the line by Christian Minar before dragging in his second for 3-1 from his side's seventh corner. Mathieu Durchon (right) pulled out his box of tricks late on to add two of his own to complete the rout.

Final Group A standings (points/goal difference): 1. Malaysia 9pts (+4) 2. France 6pts (+4) 3. Russia 1pt (-3) 4. Austria 1pt (-4)

* Photos with thanks to Eleni Henry, for more pics click here (facebook link)

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