Italy narrowly edged out Ukraine 2-1 to finish third in the women's hockey Olympic qualifier at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium on Saturday.
Italy have performed admirably in the tournament. They were one goal away from qualifying for the final, losing to India 0-1 courtesy a late goal. Ukraine stunned India on the opening day with a draw (1-1) and then beat Canada (5-2) to earn a berth in this match for 3rd-4th places.
The round-robin league match between these two teams was narrowly won by Italy 2-1.
The beginning of the match was animated. Ukraine played aggressively with a lot of purpose and pushed the Italians back into their half. After the hard match played late last night against India, it took Italy nearly twenty minutes to find some momentum and take control of play. They then forced two penalty-corners in a row but could not beat Alvina Budonna in the Ukrainian goal.
Ukraine had a chance from a scramble in the circle in the last ten minutes of the first-half, but were denied by a miraculous save by Roberta Lilliu. They kept pushing but the last chance of the period fell to Italy, who took the lead through a rasping shot by Alessia Padalino from a last minute penalty-corner.
Ukraine came back into the game early in second period, with a penalty-corner of their own scored by Bohdana Sadova. They could have increased their tally in the following minutes but were denied once again by a series of exceptional saves by the Italian keeper. The goal woke up the Italian team and they promptly regained control of play to threaten the Ukrainian circle. They had two chances on penalty-corners, but the Ukrainian defence had by now figured out Padalino’s shot and defended well.
The clock was ticking down and extra-time was looming large, something both the teams wanted to escape having played six matches in eight days. Italy pushed hard for a winner and it finally came in the 67th minute and it was once again Padalino for the Italians. With this goal, Padalino overtook South African Dirkie Chamberlain as the top scorer in the competition
Ukraine threw everything they had left in the last few minutes of play to tie the score and were unlucky to hit the post, but managed to force a penalty-corner in the dying seconds of the match. Italy called upon the video-umpire to review the penalty-corner call, but it stood for a dramatic last chance attempt, which was kept out well by the Italian defence.