Russia trounce; Marshall tap-in shocks top seeds China; France strike late to sink Austria

FIH Champions Challenge II quarter-final round-up
Russia 9 (Alexandr Platonov 2, Nikolay Komarov 2, Nikolay Yankun, Ravshanzhon Zakirov, Pavel Golubev, Ilya Larikov, Alexander Zhirkov) Czech Republic 1 (Tomas Prochazka)
A magnificent seven second half goals transformed a reasonably well balanced tie into a rout as Russia cut the Czech Republic apart to take their place in Saturday’s semi-finals.

Bursting out of the blocks, captain Alexandr Platonov and Alexander Zhirkov handed their side a 2-0 lead inside four minutes. The Czechs worked their way back into the tie and had a goal back on the quarter-hour when Tomas Prochazka fired home his fourth penalty corner of the tournament.

It set the stage for what could have been a close battle in the second half but the Russians blew the game apart within a three minute spell between the 40th and 43rd minute.

They netted three times during that time, Platonov starting the run, matching Prochazka with his fourth goal of the CCII, before Komarov rounded Tomas Hanus for 4-1 and Ravshanzhon Zakirov banged home the fifth seconds later.

From there, any Czech damage limitation exercises went unfulfilled as Ilya Larikov converted a penalty stroke after Zakirov was taken out by Richard Kotrc.

Komarov’s simple reverse, a Pavel  Golubev tap-in and a final hooter Nikolay Yankun drag-flick complete the wash-out.

Scotland 2 (Dan Coultas, William Marshall) China 1 (Yixian Liu)
William Marshall’s tap-in sent top seeds China hurtling out of contention as the curse of top pool ranking struck once again as previously winless Scotland’s first victory proved vital.

Having struggled in their three group games, looking ill-tempered and generally frustrated, the Scots got organised in the second half of this tie to hold out a Chinese attack which struggled to break down Graham Moodie’s solid defence.

Following the women’s Champions Challenge in Dublin, the Chinese became the third successive group winners under the new rules to be eliminated at the quarter-final stage.

Scotland gave up no penalty corners after the 20 minute mark while keeper Mark Fulton had precious little to do despite a couple of defensive errors gifting possession deep in their own territory.

Indeed, Marshall might have settled matters a bit earlier when he flashed wide after Moodie had raced forward and tumbled a couple of yards from goal, but they held out for a rapturously celebrated victory.

Early on, Na Yubo was shown yellow inside the first five minutes for taking an aerial over shoulder height but it did not prevent China taking the lead. Yixian Liu dragged home a corner switch, a set-piece which Kenny Bain vehemently protested, taking his frustrations out on the post.

His side were level within 90 seconds, Dan Coultas netting his second of the tournament. It was his side’s only corner of the game, one of few chances at either end. That early exchange made way for a tight midfield battle, China edging the possession stakes but scarcely threatening.

Against that back-drop, Scotland burst forward in the 42nd minute to grab the ultimate decider as a right-wing cross skipped through a melee of sticks to find Marshall at the back post and he nudged home unmarked. They go on to play either France in the semi-finals on Saturday (1pm, Irish time).

France 2 (Lucas Sevestre, Arnaud Becuwe) Austria 2 (Manuel Grandits, Alexander Bele), France won 3-2 on penalties
France left it late to break Austrian hearts as Arnaud Becuwe, on his 100th cap, grabbed an equalising lifeline three minutes from time to force extra-time and ultimately victory in the penalty shoot-out.

Tom Genestet held his nerve to round Michael Mantler on the final penalty as the French again recovered a deficit to earn a semi-final tie with Scotland while Austria must face China in a Group A re-match against China. The Austrians got off to the best possible start when Manuel Grandits pounced on a loose Henri-Julien Lhomme touch to a free-hit swept into the danger zone in the sixth minute.

From there, France created plenty of chances, Lucas Sevestre initially missing out from all of a metre on one occasion but the midfielder gained parity from close range in the 28th minute, finishing whilst on his knees.

It looked like they would power on from there but a string of sin-binnings pegged them back. With Fabien Pourcelet sitting out a suspension, Alexander Bele swept home first time for a second lead, profiting from Michael Korper’s steal on the 25.

With France reduced to nine soon after – Fabien Magner, taking his second card of the game and third of the tournament, joined by Valentin Migneau – Austria could have seen the tie out but only had one chance of note during that time, Georg Jelinek finding Lhomme easily in control.

The hosts kept piling forward and while they were frustrated for a long time, Korper twice clearing and Mantler kicking away a couple of chances, the second equaliser eventually came. It came from a long corner worked to Yannick Schambert on the edge of the circle, centring first time to the back post where Becuwe was the grateful recipient.

In extra-time, aided by Elmar Streimitzer’s yellow card, France maintained the domination but could not convert any of their three corners. It led to penalties and Grandits’ calm finish initially gave Austria the initiative.

But Lhomme kept a trio out to leave Genestet the chance and he went left and around Mantler for the key goal and the final four place.

** Photos from the day’s action can be found on The Hook’s facebook page, click here for more pics

Partners of The Hook