After a disrupted build up which saw this Championship reduced to a 5 Nation, single pool competition play started a day early in summer rain with Russia showing early dominance with a resounding 8 – 0 win over hosts Italy. Goals were evenly spread amongst the dangerous Russian line up surely signalling their intention to become EuroHockey Champions. In the other match of the day, Czech Republic shook of the effects of their overnight journey to prevail over Austria 1 – 0. Scoring early in the second half the Czech’s held onto their lead despite Austria creating many chances in goal so that it was Russia and Czech Republic who went into the second day at the top of the table.
Day 2 saw Russia continue their winning start with another emphatic 4-0 win, this time against Poland. Goals were evenly spread across the two halves and the Poles had no answer to the free flowing play of the Russians who showed that they could score in open play and from set pieces. So, it fell to Czech Republic to try and keep the pressure on at the top of the table but Italy were no pushover and bounced back well from the disappointment of their defeat the day before. In front of a vocal and enthusiastic home crowd the hosts fell behind midway through the second half but managed to equalise to leave honours even and Russia go into day 3 with the comfort of a 2 point lead at the top of the table and knowledge that a victory against their main revivals Czech Republic would see them create a convincing lead into their final game.
So, on the hottest day of the event so far Russia and Czech Republic met in an all important deciding match. Russia knew a win would see them move within grasping reach of the title but the Czech Republic also knew that a victory against Russia would leave them everything to play few on the last two days of the competition. An exciting first half saw the teams trade goals with Russia taking the early lead through their prolific goal scorer and captain, number 5 Valerii Borisova; Czech Republic came straight back into the match with a well worked equaliser with 2 minutes which saw the teams go into half time at 1-1. Once again Russia took the lead in the second half only to find them pegged back again by Czech Republic and it looked as if the game would end in a draw only for Czech hearts to be broken by a fine open play goal scored Russia’s captain Borisova. As Czech players sank to the ground exhausted by their brave, but ultimately unsuccessful attempts to keep their hopes of a Championship alive, the jubilant Russian team swarmed onto the pitch to celebrate the win that sees them go into today’s play knowing that they had put themselves into favourites spot to win the title.
In the other match of the day Austria recorded their first win of the event to see them rise to third in the table and keep alive their chance of securing a Championship which would see both the Austrian Girls and Boys u16s crowned EuroHockey Champions. Russia enjoy a huge goal difference advantage coming into their final match of the tournament and Austria know they have a must win game against Russia today and must start finding the net in their final matches today and Sunday to snatch the top place from Russia. With the rest of the table still up for grabs this is still everything to play for and the tournament is really hotting up!
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Source: Jo Pennycook
Photograph: Russia celebrate