Austria celebrate derby victory; China sweep past USA; Russia too strong for Scots

FIH Champion’s Challenge, group stages (reports will be added to this post as the day progresses)
Group A: Austria 4 (A Bele 2, G Jelinek, M Korper) Czech Republic 3 (D Vacek 2, T Prochazka)
Austria celebrated an Eastern European derby win over neighbours the Czech Republic to begin day two, one which their bench greeted with some relish.

The Czechs had taken the initiative through David Vacek in the eighth minute, neatly turning on a loose ball and popping it behind Philippe Thiltges.

Michael Korper responded with his second direct drag-flick of the tournament before Robert Bele got his first of the game early in the second half for 2-1.

Vacek again got a close range touch to Martin Babicky excellent left-wing charge with eight minutes to go as the Czechs raised their game considerably.

But they were stung amid a goal rush in the closing ten minutes. Georg Jelinek’s scrambled effort from the floor restored the lead and Bele’s second was the killer blow, controlling a right-wing cross before calmly flicking home. Tomas Prochazka netted at the second attempt from a final hooter but it proved academic as Austria got off the mark.

Three second half goals swept China to a comfortable victory over the USA to head Group A as the only side with two wins to their name in the pool thus far.

China 3 (Yubo Na, Xiantang Liu, Liguang E) USA 0
A lively first half saw both sides have goals disallowed while the US also soaked up a series of sin-binnings. China were enjoying the best of the play and they finally broke their rivals defensive resolve a couple of minutes into the second half.

There was a stroke of fortune to it, a right wing cross squeezing between the post and Tom Sheridan’s path, leaving the ball spinning on the goal line and open for Yubo Na to mop up.

Xiantang Liu extended the margin from a narrow angle, picking a gap at the near post through Sheridan’s defences and Liguang E completed the scoring six minutes from time. USA will be the basement side overnight and will need a big win against Austria on Tuesday to avoid staying there.

Group B: Russia 4 (P Golubev, N Komarov, D Azarov) Scotland 2 (M Christie, A Forsyth)
Russia put down a second half Scottish uprising to claim their first win of the competition and get back into the race for first place in Group B. After a few initial wobbles, they built a 2-0 lead early in the second half only for two Scottish goals in 100 seconds to tie up the game.

But a sweetly taken Nikolay Komarov effort, rounding Phil Carr to roll home, and a dead-eye penalty stroke from Dimitry Azarov with five minutes to go saw the Scottish toil end in vain.

The Scots had made much of the early running, driving hard at the central defensive pairing of Azarov and Ilya Larikov, earning a pair of corners before Russia got a foothold in the tie.

Golubev gave them the lead in the 22nd minute with a superbly taken rebound to Aleksandr Platonov’s reverse stick shot which ballooned high into Golubev’s path.

One became two a minute into the second half before Scotland fought back in style, Christie rebounding a corner and Forsyth finishing when found all alone in the Russian D.

It was not enough, though, to break down the resolute Russians who regrouped and strode home even with skipper Platonov sin-binned for the last seven minutes.

** Updates throughout the day www.twitter.com/hookhockey (#championschallenge); Stanislas Brochier’s photos from the day can be seen here

FIH Champions Challenge II, Group A results:
Austria 4 (A Bele 2, G Jelinek, M Korper) Czech Republic 3 (D Vacek 2, T Prochazka), China 3 (Yubo Na, Xiantang Liu, Liguang E) USA 0
Standings: 1. China 6pts (+4) 2. Czech Republic 3pts (0) 3. Austria 3pts (0) 4. USA 0pts (-4)

Group B: Russia 4 (P Golubev, N Komarov, D Azarov) Scotland 2 (M Christie, A Forsyth)
Standings: 1. France 3pts (+1) 2. Ireland 3pts (+1) 3. Russia 3pts (+1) 4. Scotland 0pts (-3)

Today’s schedule (Lille, all Irish times):
Group B: Ireland vs France, 4pm

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