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Friday, September 24, 2010

Last-Gasp Goal Helps Portugal to Second Win

A LAST second goal helped Portugal secure their second one-point victory in less than 24 hours, beating Italy 27-26 in their Four Nations Tournament clash at The Echo Arena in Liverpool on Friday afternoon.

The late goal from right-back Maria Pereira helped keep her sides’ 100 per cent winning record, left and the Portuguese on course to win the overall Tournament.

Italy, having beaten Portugal only once in their last four competitive matches, went into the game following their poor performance in the 32-26 defeat against the Swiss in their opening game yesterday, whilst the Portuguese were playing on the back of their one goal victory against hosts GB last night.

However, it was Italy who started the game with purpose as they took a 7-1 lead inside the first ten minutes. Italian left winger Carolina Balsanti proved a thorn in the side for the Portuguese in the opening stages of the match with her perseverance and strength paying off, and she opened the scoring after just 23 seconds on the fast-break, which was followed by strikes from teammates left-back Sandra Federspieler, Balsanti twice, Laura Elena Avram and Carmen Onnis.

In the middle of this one-sided scoring Rita Alves got her side off the mark but coach Portuguese coach Duarte Freitas had seen enough and called a break to the proceedings to address his sides’ problems.

Daniela Silva scored straight after the break and despite Italy again opening a six goal lead through Barani and Avram, Portugal started to get back into the game and were helped by Italy’s influential playmaker Barani receiving a two-minute suspension halfway through the half. Italy were further disrupted through Sandra Federspieler who received her own two minute suspension a few minutes later which prompted their coach Tamas Neukum to call his sides’ time out.

But Portugal applied more pressure and strikes from Claudia Correia, Claudia Aguiar, Maria Pereira and Bebiana Sabino on the buzzer, took the sides even going into the break at 12-12.

The early stages of the second half saw both teams exchange goals, but despite good defensive play from the Italians, and strong attacking from the Portuguese, both sides couldn’t make the breakthrough needed to walk away with the victory.

With the scores equal at 26-26 and only 42 seconds left on the clock Portugal took a time out, and then cleverly ran the clock down allowing for a move straight off of the training court as Pereira took advantage of her teammates’ distraction of the Italian defence to launch a missile that flew into the top of the net with one second remaining and sealing the victory for the Portuguese who march on.

Match Report by Andrew McSteen
Photos by Michele Davison

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