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Date: 8/20/2016
 

The women’s handball competition at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad came to an end with Russia crowned champions as they defeated France by three goals, thereby securing their first-ever Olympic title in the female category. 

"I was crying when I listened to our national anthem, because for me it was a dream - one of my biggest dreams," said Russia's Anna Sen after the win. "We achieved what we wanted. I don’t feel yet that I am an Olympic champion. Everything for me is like a dream."

The match was a level contest, as France fought hard to keep pace with their opponents before the gold medallists created a crucial three-goal difference ahead of the half-time buzzer. Les Bleus played a strong second half to equalise with 15 minutes left on the clock, but after that the game belonged to Russia, and they held a three-goal advantage at the final whistle. 

"Russia are really strong, they played very good defence. We missed some shots in the first half and I think it was really hard for our mentality. We still came back and equalised but they were so strong," said Amandine Leynaud following the match. 

"I will not cry or anything. They deserved this medal as much as we did and I just want to enjoy this moment.

"We ran after this medal for a long, long time…I am so happy to have won it."

Future Arena, Saturday 20 August
Final: France vs Russia 19:22 (7:10)

The opening shots of the game from both sides were saved, by France’s Amandine Leynaud and Russia’s starting keeper Tatiana Erokhina, before France captain Siraba Dembele added the first of the match just before the clock showed two minutes. Leynaud immediately proved troublesome for Russia, saving their opening four shots until Daria Dmitrieva earned a penalty for Russia in the fifth, which Anna Vyakhireva converted to level at 1:1. 

In the ninth minute Leynaud stopped a penalty off Vyakhireva to keep the score at 3:2, and Dembele had an opportunity to equalise on a fast break in the 11th, but she hit the post and the score stayed where it was. It took one more minute for Estelle Nze-Minko to level as she stepped on the court for the first time after Allison Pineau momentarily returned to the bench with a minor injury. 

Leynaud was making Russia’s job difficult, but at the other end of the court so was her counterpart Erokhina. Both keepers saved at more than 50%, with Erokhina making three saves from the six attempts against her, while Leynaud stopped six of the 10 she had faced to record an exceptional 60% for the opening 15 minutes when the score stood at 4:3 for Russia. 

As the clock approached 18 minutes Russia scored two consecutive goals, thanks to a penalty from Ekaterina Ilina followed by a breakthrough from Dmitrieva, taking the score to 6:3. At the 20-minute mark Russia kept a three-goal difference, and as the last 10 minutes of the half began it became slowly more clear that France were having greater trouble against Russia’s defence than they were causing for their opponents. 

A two-minute suspension for Vladlena Bobrovnikova helped France decrease the score line, as they recorded a 2:0 run during her time on the bench to come within one at 7:8 in the 27th as line player Laurisa Landre scored off a pass from Alexandra Lacrabere. But when Russia returned to full strength they had little trouble scoring the last two goals of the period, reclaiming the three-goal advantage with a goal from Anna Sen three seconds before the buzzer. 

In the second period France chased hard, and 10 minutes in they closed the gap to two as Dembele tallied her third on a fast break. Russia re-opened the three-goal difference just a minute later thanks to Vyakhireva (14:11) before Lacrabere was injured and had to return to the bench, but her team had suddenly found the momentum and again decreased the difference to one at 13:14 after goals from Pineau and Dembele. 

Just as the last quarter of the match began Laura Glauser, who had come into the goal at the start of the second period, made a crucial save converted into a fast-break goal by Pineau, equalising at 14:14. The keeper proved how important she is under the pressure of a close end of game when she stopped Ilina’s next shot, but as her team lost the ball in the next attack Russia capitalised with a fast break by Marina Sudakova that took Russia in front by one with just over 12 minutes left (15:14). 

The score stayed there as the last 10 minutes began, before Vyakhireva scored her fourth to earn Russia a two-goal advantage at 16:14. They moved further ahead thanks to Bobrovnikova in the 53rd, and as the clock passed 55 minutes the game remained in favour of Russia at 19:16. Pineau decreased the gap to two at 18:20 in the 58th, but the winning goals for Russia came next as Olga Akopian scored the two that pulled them ahead to a three-goal distance France could not overcome before the final buzzer. 

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