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24 Jun 2015
Spain, Portugal, Russia, and Ukraine open Baku with triumphs
Day 1 had penalties, comebacks, near combacks and excitement that filled all of Azerbaijan
Ukraine upends hosts for emphatic opening win
The 3-1 victory for Ukraine over Azerbaijan was a match with drama, defense, and energy. The hosts went down early but charged back, igniting excitement in the stands, and tying matters at 1, with plenty of time remaining. The fairy tale opening for the hosts at the 1st ever European Games would stop there as Ukraine buckled down and used two straight goals in the middle period from Korniichuk to give them a big enough lead to sit on for the rest of the game. The win gives Ukraine three points and keeps them tied with Portugal in the group going into their match on Thursday. The loss was a bad one Azerbaijan but they will need points on Thursday against Switzerland.
The hosts, Azerbaijan, have played in many big, especially recently but the pressure for this event and on this stage was even greater. It did not help that their opponent was as tough as Ukraine. The Ukrainians netted the first goal, but it was not until late in the frame. The Zborovskyi strike was the frames’ only goal but it was not from lack of trying from both sides. Azerbaijan kept asking questions but the stout defense and goaltending from Ukraine had all the answers and the period ended with the Yellow and Blues up 1-0. Not wanting to be too kind a host, Azerbaijan used a goal from Sabir to level the score at 1-1 and send the home crowd into an even louder fervor of energy. That excitement was quickly put to rest due to two quick shots from Korniichuk that gave the Ukrainian side their biggest lead of the day, albeit only two goals, but the score stood at 3-1 going into the final frame.
The Azerbaijani were fighting but in a losing battle to find offense, their offensive were confounding because they have their own list of very high profile scoring machines, but up until the final frame, they had not showed up. Ukraine was happy to keep their tiny lead and put their best defensive foot forward, once again. Azerbaijan could not take advantage of the opportunities they were given and Ukraine more than welcomed the missed chances, The Ukrainians were not taking many chances of their own, however. Ukraine was happy with the lead and were confident in their defense. When the last whistle had been blow, Ukraine held the 3-1 advantage over Azerbaijan.
Goals: 1-0: Zborovskyi, min. 4 (1); 1-1: Sabir, min. 11 (2); 2-1: Korniichuk, min. 8 (2); 3-1: Korniichuk, min. 5 (2).
Russia regroups late to defeat Hungary
The 5-3 win for Russia over Hungary was a tightly contested match with Hungary nearly upsetting the champs after a late push. Russia and Hungary played to an early draw before the Russians turned it on and looked ready to run away with the score, but the Golden Team was not stopping there and they scored three quick goals to level the score. Although it was the Russian expertise and veteran leadership that allowed them to stay calm and fight back, eventually scoring the goa-ahead goal and then the insurance goal. The win puts Russia atop of their group as they earned three points with the win but Spain only managed to garner one point in their penalties victory. Hungary came closer than most to defeating the Russian and that is a bad sign for Spain, who they face on Thursday.
The Russians know how important a solid start is and they began this match with a clear idea of what to, and they executed it to perfection. However, it came after a very equal opening frame, in which the two sided exchanged defensive blows. Krash scored early in the middle frame for the Big Red Beach Machine, and then Paporotnyi added his own goal to put Russia up 2-0. At that point the Hungarian side fought back but could not get any real open chances, despite controlling much of the periods’ possession. The Russian side looked in control and headed into the second break with the same score, up 2-0.
The final frame was so exciting that the weak-hearted may not have been able to handle the entire ordeal. Russia, as might have been expected, Russia scored again and first in the frame, but it was the Hungarians that replied with authority, scoring three times to put the score at 3-3, late in the match. It looked as though there was no doubt in the Russians’ faces and demeanor, and they calmly used a soft passing shot from Makarov to restore the one goal advantage. But the Russian squad did not want another let down and they used a goal from the always steady, Shishin to put the score at 5-3, all but eliminating any chance of a big comeback, another big comeback mind you, from Hungary. When the final buzzer sounded, Russia had secured the 5-3 win.
Goals: 0-1: Krash, min. 11 (1); 0-2: Paporotnyi, min. 5 (1); 1-2: Badalik, min. 11 (3); 1-3: Shishin, min. 9 (3); 2-3: Ughy, min. 4 (3); 3-3: Abel, min. 4 (3); 3-4: Makarov, min. 3 (3); 3-5: Shishin, min. 1 (3).
Portugal stuns Swiss in comeback victory
The 6-5 win for Portugal over Switzerland was thrilling, had up moments, down moments, and plenty of goals, which excited everyone. The Swiss started much quicker but they were unable to hold onto their lead as the Portuguese side put forth a determined effort and fought back to a tie, and then the eventual win. The win is an added bonus for Jose Maria of Portugal, whose wife gave birth to his first son on Tuesday. The win gives Portugal the leg up in their group as they hope to secure a gold medal just before the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup begins on July 9th, which they are hosting. The loss did not look like it would be a loss for the Swiss and that makes it all the harder to swallow but they will look to rebound on Thursday against hosts Azerbaijan.
The Swiss offense is always on the attack and they have so many weapons that it works but apart from an early goal from the Swiss Bomber, Stankovic, the two teams were employing a new strategy of defense first. The flood gates did open up when Stankovic scored his second and then almost immediately after, Madjer netted his teams’ first goal on a blast from nearly the length of the pitch, which left the score at 2-1 for La Nati going into the first break. The second period had a stark contrast to the first as both teams were lucky enough, well were working hard enough to net even more goals and the momentum was going back and forth. Just as the Swiss side looked to be running away with things, the Portuguese struck and when the buzzer signaled the end of the period, the game remained just as close, with Switzerland up by one goal at 4-3.
All defense went out the window in the closing period with both sides exchanging goals left and right. The Swiss were still in control, however the Portuguese had been battling all day and they finally took their first lead, thanks to new father, Jose Maria, but that lead did not last long as Ott leveled things again at 5-all. At that point, Portugal used another gal to take the 6-5 lead and they clung to that margin tightly. Thing finally did turn further in the favour of Portugal as they gained a one man advantage when a red card was given to Switzerland for the use of hands in the box. It did not affect the final score but it made the final few minutes more bearable. When the final whistle sounded, Portugal had somehow come out victorious with the 6-5 win.
Goals: 0-1: Stankovic, min. 10 (1); 0-2: Stankovic, min. 5 (1); 1-2: Madjer, min. 4 (1); 2-2: Belchior, min. 10 (2); 2-3: Mo, min. 9 (2); 2-4: Ott, min. 7 (2); 3-4: Jose Maria, min. 2 (2); 4-4: Belchior, min. 10 (3); 5-4: Jose Maria, min. 5 (3); 5-5: Ott, min. 4 (3); 6-5: Belchior, min. 4 (3).
Spain escapes with penalties win to open up Games
The 1(3)-1(1) victory for Spain was breathtaking and seemed to be going to the way of the Italians for nearly the entire match. Italy never gave-up on their tight defense and their countering offense scored first in the opening frame, and then held on, seemingly for the win until the final minutes of the match when Spain found their charm and scored to send the game into overtime. In overtime, the teams could not hit the mark and that led to penalties. The shootout saw the World’s best keeper, Dona of Spain, live up to his title, and save one of the two goals he saw, more than enough to secure the win. The opening victory left the fans and crowd in awe and it gives Spain one point going into their next match on Thursday against Hungary. Italy very well could have won this match but they will need to wait until their next match, against Russia to try and rebound.
Strictly from the eye-test fans would think that the Spaniards were dominating the opening minutes of the first period but that was not the case as is normal with the Italians, they held a tough back line and were waiting for their chances to pounce. Sure enough, in the final minute of the opening frame, Zurlo turned a near goal for Spain into Italy’s first score, on a brilliant counter-attack. The goal would prove to be the only of the first 12 minutes and the game went into the second period with Italy up 1-0. The second period had the roles change with Spain needing a sound defense to keep the attacking Azzurri from scoring and adding to their slim lead. The tactical chess match continued as the teams began exchanging free flowing attacks but the score did not change and the Italians still held the 1-0 lead going into the final period.
Spain knew they only needed one goal to get back into matters, in fact, they were well into proceedings but they could not find the first goal to turn their fortunes around, at least not in the early going of the last period. As the period progressed, the Italians were still in control and held onto the lead they created in the closing minutes of the opening period. All of that changed when the Furia Roja used splendid teamwork to slot home their first goal, in the waning minutes of the match to send the Spanish side into a frenzy and knot things at 1. All the chances in the world could not net either team the deciding goal and the game went into overtime with the same score, 1-1. Even the extra frame could not give the fans a winner and the match went into the last possible phase, a winner-take-all shootout.
Goals: 0-1: Zurlo, min. 2 (1); Lorenç, min. 2 (3).
Penalties: Llorenç: goal; Ramacciotti: save; Juanma: goal; Corosiniti: goal; Antonio: goal.
EUROPEAN GAMES BAKU 2015
16:00 – Spain 1(3)-1(1) Italy (Group B)
17:30 – Portugal 6-5 Switzerland (Group A)
19:00 – Hungary 3-5 Russia (Group B)
20:30 – Ukraine 3-1 Azerbaijan (Group A)
16:00 – Spain vs Hungary (Group B)
17:30 – Portugal vs Ukraine (Group A)
19:00 – Russia vs Italy (Group B)
20:30 – Azerbaijan vs Switzerland (Group A)