Italy wins southern clash
by Martin Merk|07 OCT 2021
The Italian players celebrate the opening goal in their 4-1 win against Spain.
photo: Diego Barbieri
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The Italian women’s national team started the Olympic Qualification campaign on home ice successfully by beating their rivals across the Mediterranean Sea from Spain 4-1.

Italy took advantage from a strong and efficient first-period showing with three goals. And even though the home team didn’t manage to run up the score any further they clearly outshot Spain 46-16 throughout the game.

“It was not the easiest start but it’s normal. We have a new team with many young players and when you play at home it’s always a lot of pressure. For some it was their first official national team game. But I’m satisfied. We could do more but we got the three points,” said Italian captain Carola Saletta.

“It was emotional for me to play this game. Here I played my first World Championship when I was 16. Tonight was a big night for me and I can’t wait for the next game.”

The Azzurri earned an early lead a few seconds after a face-off in the offensive zone at 1:35. Rebecca Roccella sent a horizontal pass through the crease on the other side where Anna Caumo was ready to net the puck.

The Italians created a couple of more dangerous moments in front of Spanish goaltender Alba Gonzalo including a post shot around the nine-minute mark before they were again rewarded midway the period. The Italians were on their first power play and saw a shot from the blue line from Amie Varano blocked same as Caumo’s rebound attempt but Aurora Abatangelo’s third shot went in.

“We had some issues at the beginning of the game and made some fundamental mistakes. It was hard to prepare against a team like that, that had more exhibition games and stuff like that but we made the adjustments. That [Italian] team is much better than the one that played in Division IB two years ago and we stood toe to toe with them for two periods,” Spain’s head coach Harold Rosenholtz said.

While the Spaniards didn’t take advantage of their power plays, the Italians also converted their second opportunity. With heavy traffic in front of the Spanish goal Chelsea Furlani scored on a rebound with 2:50 left in the opening frame.

The Spanish reaction followed early in the middle frame 63 seconds after the first puck drop. Haizea Fernandez de Romarategui skated through the Italian zone with little resistance and tried it with a high shot from about ten metres to spoil Elisa Biondi’s shutout attempt.

Italy continued to put shots on the Spanish net but didn’t get their fourth goal easily and the games got chippy at times with the teams exchanging 16 minor penalties.

“It’s the first time we played against such a strong team; they are a division above us. It was nice to see us fighting against them and make it a tight game. We need to improve and then we can play with them at the same level,” Spanish goaltender Gonzalo said after the game.

The home team had to be patient until the final goal with 2:59 left before the buzzer. Abatangelo fed Marta Mazzocchi with a horizontal pass, who deked Gonzalo to score the 4-1 goal.

The goal definitely sealed the win and the Italian players and their fans were ready to loudly sing their national anthem, Il Canto degli Italiani.

After a day off Italy will face Chinese Taipei on Saturday night while Spain will challenge Kazakhstan. Italy and Kazakhstan, the two undefeated teams after Day 1, will meet in the last game on Sunday night.
Spain vs Italy - 2022 Women's Final Olympic Qualification Group G