Belfius EuroHockey Championships
Women’s Pool A: Spain 1 (B Iglesias) Russia 0
Belen Iglesias’s dramatic 58th minute goal saw Spain spoil Russia’s return to the top tier of the EuroHockey Championships as they finally broke down a packed defence.
For Russia, their goalkeeper Viktoriia Aleksandrina was immense despite her small stature and she almost earned them a shock point against the World Cup bronz medalists. But Spain kept their nerve and eventually got the winning goal to start their tournament on the front foot.
In the first game of the women’s tournament, Russia did win the first corner of the game in the 12th minute but could not convert but, otherwise, it was all Spain who had a wealth of chances.
Berta Bonastre had two big chances, one of which was denied at close quarters by Viktoriia Aleksandrina, the other which she never truly caught and it skipped inches wide.
Begona Garcia saw another flash across the face of goal and then Maria Tost hit the crossbar after a brilliant incisive move, Georgina Oliva providing the killer pass.
Lola Riera hit a powerful corner shot inches wide with the score somehow remaining at 0-0. The second half saw more of the same with the chances going closer and closer.
Aleksandrina was in sparkling form and when she was not keeping out the likes of Garcia, Maria Lopez and Lucia Jimenez, her defence was coming to her rescue. Svetlana Salamtina picked off an amazing save over her head on the goal line with 10 minutes to go, somehow denying another chance.
But the winner eventually came with just two minutes to go when Belen Iglesias volleyed home. Oliva’s pass started the move, bouncing through a defender where Marta Segu beautifully juggled the ball and lifted it high over the goalkeeper. It floated in the air for a long time before Iglesias was on hand to bat it down into the goal.
Berta Bonastre said the crucial thing “was about being patient”.
“We did really good work in our press and creating chances but the ball just didn’t want to go in. The key was to just keep going and the goal eventually arrived.
“It was almost not fair getting no reward for the way we played. We will keep fighting for every game.
“We know Russia have improved a lot and did a really good job with their long overheads and vertical game. But our defence was quite good and we were just waiting for that goal to finally come.”
Umpires: H Harrison (ENG), C Martin-Schmets (BEL)
Spain – Russia
58’ Belen Iglesias (FG) 1-0