Netherlands overthrow Olympic champions in thrilling semi-final

13 Dec. 2019

Netherlands overthrow Olympic champions in thrilling semi-final

With a goal scored in the last minute, the Netherlands defeated Olympic champions Russia and earned their second IHF Women’s World Championship final berth in four years. The Netherlands have now secured their third consecutive medal, following the silver in 2015 and the bronze in 2017. 

The Netherlands now await their opponent for the title match, to be decided in the second semi-final, still to be played between Norway and Spain. Russia will take on the losing side in the bronze-medal game. 

Russia vs Netherlands 32:33 (16:16)

While the Netherlands had made their way to the semi-finals after a challenging campaign that included both notable wins over difficult opponents and losses, they seemed more ready to play at a higher level than Russia, who, in comparison, had won all their matches clearly. 

The Netherlands opened an early advantage while Russia had trouble with some uncharacteristic errors. After a two-minute suspension for Anna Vyakhireva meant goalkeeper Anna Sedoykina came off court when Russia were in attack, the Netherlands opened their first two-goal lead thanks to a shot from Lois Abbingh into the empty goal. 

From that point Russia were left chasing to close the gap, but the two-goal distance remained at 6:8 in the 10th minute. It was difficult to reduce the deficit, as they were plagued by their own mistakes at times, but gradually the Olympic champions came back, levelling just after the first quarter came to an end. 

At that point, Netherlands back Estavana Polman had contributed four of her side’s goals, and she continued to be their most dangerous attacker together with her other backs Lois Abbingh and Laura van der Heijden. 

Once Russia drew the game level, the score line did not change again in the half. With a penalty scored after the end of the period, Russia captain Anna Sen equalised and the match was completely open for the second 30 minutes. 

Once again, the Netherlands created a two-goal edge in the opening minutes, 17:19 in the 35th, and once again Russia came back. 10 minutes into the period, Polman reached the seven-goal mark but Russia had claimed the edge at 22:21. 

Russia coach Ambros Martin changed his goalkeeper, bringing in Viktoriia Kalinina for Anna Sedoykina, who left the court with nine saves. Kalinina immediately had an impact with an important save, but the score line still remained locked and level. 

The match essentially became a contest between backs Polman and Vyakhireva. With seven minutes on the clock and the score at 29:29, Polman counted eight goals and Vyakhireva tallied nine, and the Russian MVP of the 2016 Olympic Games and the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 also led the assists, with six. 

With neither side able to pull away, the last 60 seconds began with the score equal and the Netherlands in possession. The Netherlands converted their final attack into a goal, and when their defence prevented Russia from doing the same in the dying seconds, the match was won. 

hummel Player of the Match: Anna Vyakhireva, Russia