Greece v Russia delivers semi-final thriller at Lahti 2021
Date: June 5, 2021
An exceptional semi-final between Greece and Russia in the men’s competition at the 2021 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Goalball European Championships B delivered one of the games of the competition in Lahti, Finland, on Saturday (5 June).
Russia were leading 5-3 at the break, but a mistake from the Russians gifted their opponents a penalty four minutes into the second half. Chatzipantou, the tournament’s top scorer, had no problems bringing Greece back to within one goal and then levelled the score not long after.
With the momentum behind them, the Greeks then took control of the game with two more goals as Russia fumbled twice in front of goal. As a third effort found the back of the Russian net, it looked as though Greece had sealed the win at 8-5.
But Russia were not finished and were handed a chance by a high-ball from Greece. The subsequent penalty effort by Mikhail Egorov eased in. As the clock crept past the 10 minute mark Egorov powered another shot through the Greek defence.
Greece, now showing some nerves, began to lose some confidence and Russia capitalised once again to bring the scores level at 8-8 with 35 seconds left to play.
Then, with just five seconds to go, Chatzipantou showed why he is one of the players of the competition. Sweeping across the front of his goal to the middle of the court, and with a beautiful discus style throw, the power of his shot ricocheted past the Russian defence to carry his team to the final – and a guaranteed place in Pool A. A few seconds later the final whistle blew and the Greek players collapsed in a heap with relief and joy.
Joining Greece in the gold medal match – and the division above – will be Montenegro after they eased past Poland 12-5. Niko Nikolic was once again their top striker with eight goals.
Poland and Russia will face-off for bronze on Sunday, and the final spot in Pool A.
Great Britain will take on Portugal in the fifth-place play-offs and Israel play Italy for seventh.
The Finnish women also advanced to the top tier of European goalball on Saturday, winning their quarter final against 3-0 against Spain. A successful shot from Krista Leppanen opened the scoring for the hosts in the first half. That was followed by two more goals in the second, courtesy of Susanna Halme and Iida Kauppila.
Heading into Sunday’s final, Leppanen and Halme are Finland’s joint top scorers with six goals each.
Finland now face a clash against Denmark in the gold medal match after the Danish overcame France.
Denmark’s Anja Christensen caused controversy with France’s Audrey Belkhir who insisted she had saved Christensen’s effort within the first minute of the game. The goal judges disagreed, both of their arms shooting into the air to call it in.
It proved academic as another Christensen shot decisively found its way past the French defence at halfway through the match. Denmark added one more goal before the whistle with only one reply from France.
Into the second half, Denmark maintained control of the match and increased their lead by two more. France did not give up, but could not find enough of a groove to turn the game around. The final score was 5-3.
With the gold medal now out of reach, both France and Spain can focus on the third place play-off on Sunday where they will still have a chance at promotion.
Poland will take on Hungary for fifth place.