Mulhouse and Lille will contest the French Cup Final tomorrow after seeing off their respective opponents, Olympic Nice, and Grand Nancy, in today’s semi-finals.
Both teams took different routes to getting past their semi-final opponents. Mulhouse needed a last second winner to defeat Olympic Nice, while Lille were comfortably better than Nancy in their semi-final bout.
As much as Mulhouse would love to beat Lille and win the Alice Milliat Trophy tomorrow, they are massive underdogs. A Lille victory seems likely, but Mulhouse fans are holding out hope that anything can happen in the cup final.
Olympic Nice and Grand Nancy will contest the bronze medal match.
Match Report, Mulhouse WP 12 – 11 Olympic Nice
Mulhouse are into the French Cup final after Vivian Kretzmann-Bahia’s dramatic last-gasp winner from range was the only deciding factor between them and Nice.
In a thrilling semi-final, the momentum constantly shifted throughout the game, making for an exciting spectacle.
If there was a player who deserved to score the game-winning goal, it was Kretzmann-Bahia, who had an exceptional game prior to her late heroics. The French International, alongside Kinga Mihaly, were unstoppable forces in the match, both totalling four scores each.
Throughout the game, Nice had opportunities to close the door on Mulhouse, but they ultimately paid the price for failing to seize those opportunities.
Nice unquestionably contributed to the spectacle’s success. They trailed by two scores heading into the final 90 seconds. With only two seconds remaining in the game, Ema Vernoux tied the score, but in a split second, last minute jubilation transcended into last minute agony.
Mulhouse WP 12 – 11 Olympic Nice (2-2, 2-2, 5-4, 3-3)
Mulhouse: L. Cruz Mancebo, V. Heurtaux 1, M. Le Roux 1, L. Forgacs, L. Guillet 2, L. Jean Michel, K. Mihaly 4, C. Bouloukbachi, A. Van Dyke, V. Kretzmann-Bahia 4, T. Raspo, A. Daule, R. Edgerton, L. Andres
Nice: M. Chabrier, L. Vernoux, B. Van de Velde 2, J. Kohli 2, K. Noy, A. Grass 1, M. Barbieux 1, V. Tamas 2, E. Vernoux 2, L. Di Fraja, S. Amcher, I. Di Bartolo 1, C. Vidal, E. Cugnart
In the opening moments of the first semi-final, Nice exerted pressure and established a 2-0 advantage. Ema Vernoux scored from close range, and Ilaria Di Bartolo, the former Trapani attacker, with far too much time to measure her shot, found the back of the Mulhouse net.
While Nice certainly started the game with more intent, Mulhouse found their footing after falling behind 2-0, and two goals from Hungarian Kinga Mihaly—one of which came from a 5m penalty—brought Mulhouse level.
Mulhouse continued to gain momentum in the second section of the game. Despite conceding first through Marie Barbiuex’s near-side shot, French international Vivian Kretzmann-Bahia netted twice to give her side the lead for the first time, the first from Mulhouse’s second penalty of the game before a really excellent pin-point effort from range.
In the second half, Elie Carreau’s Nice appeared devoid of inspiration, and they were partially stopped by the outstanding saves of Mulhouse’s Canadian goalkeeper Rumina Edgerton. Edgerton could do nothing but watch, however, as Jaqueline Kohli rocketed the ball into the bottom left corner to level proceedings before the break (4-4).
Both sides found their attacking groove via their early extra-player opportunities in the third quarter; Viktoria Tamas wrong-footed the Mulhouse defence to add her first strike of the match before Valentine Heurtaux made no mistake from a central position.
It was Olympic Nice, however, who made the first significant breakaway in the clash. Nice’s Dutch star, Blom Van de Velde, converted a penalty to put her team up 7-5 after Viktoria Tamas slotted home twice in as many minutes.
But with a huge shift in momentum, it was Mulhouse who led heading into the last quarter. Louise Guillet struck twice, the first on a swift counter-attack move, before pulling off a delightful lob from the left. Captain Morganne Le Roux of Mulhouse outmuscled her defender and tapped in a goal from close range, and Kinga Mihaly’s third goal of the match, a vicious cross-cage shot, put her team 9-8 ahead with eight minutes of water polo to play.
Into the last, Mulhouse looked home and dry. Van de Velde momentarily equalised for Nice with an awe-inspiring shot off the bar, but Mulhouse were awarded a penalty in the subsequent attack, and Kretzmann-Bahia sent the Nice keeper, Chabrier, the wrong way.
After a short pause in the game, Mulhouse finally added another score to give them a two-goal buffer, and once again, it was Kinga Mihaly who found a way past the Nice defence.
Nice’s chances of winning the game were diminishing quickly, and Ema Vernoux’s missed penalty didn’t help.
But the game was far from over.
With 90 seconds left, Nice’s Marie Barbieux got her team half-way to parity, and then with just 0:02 remaining, Vernoux redeemed her earlier penalty miss to seemingly send the game to penalties.
However, the excitement wasn’t over yet. With only a second remaining, Vivian Kretzmann-Bahia, from a great distance away, rifled a bouncing shot goalward, which snuck under the arm of Chabrier in the Nice goal to secure a late, dramatic victory.
Match Report, LUC Metropole 13 – 6 Grand Nancy
Lille easily dispatched Grand Nancy in the French Cup semifinals, and they’ll defend their crown against Mulhouse in the final tomorrow.
With four goals, Erica Hardy led the way for the defending champions, who cruised to a comfortable victory. There were also two-goal performances from Gabi Fitaire, Orsolya Hertzka, Maddy O’Reilly, and Nikki Meijer.
It’s fair to say that Lille were the better team throughout, and while Nancy made things interesting in the first half, Anestis Pesmatzoglou’s squad pulled away in the second.
Despite losing to the superior team today, Marko Damjanovic’s Nancy will back themselves to beat Olympic Nice and win the bronze medal game.
LUC Metropole 13 – 6 Grand Nancy (3-1, 2-2, 4-2, 4-1)
Lille: M. Rycraw, M. Ouchache 1, L. Baes, G. Fitaire 2, E. Hardy 4, G. Deike, O. Hertzka 2, M. O’Reilly 2, N. Meijer 2, A. Kochetova, E. Lefebvre
Nancy: L. Council, A. Sabouriat 3, C. Moreira, C. Hanzo, L. Bachelier, P. Vizcarra 2, S. Pacheco-Herce, L. Fanara 1, K. Benlekbir, A. Gabriele, P. Martineaud-Peret
It took a few minutes for both teams to find their footing, but once they did, it was Lille that stamped their authority on the game.
Orsolya Hertzka, Nikki Meijer and Myriam Ouchache put the reigning champions 3-0 up. Anais Sabouriaut netted inside the last minute of the first, but Nancy had clearly started second best in the game.
Quickly, Nancy cut into Lille’s lead by scoring themselves, thanks to Paola Vizcarra’s neat, instinctive goal. Lille, however, started to stretch their opponents; American left-hander Maddy O’Reilly finished well on the breakaway, before Erica Hardy found a good finish from 4 metres.
Lille didn’t quite go for the throat though, with Anna Kochetova passing up a good opportunity from a 5m penalty. As the halftime buzzer sounded, Grand Nancy’s chances were still very much alive thanks to a conversion by Lucie Fanara (5-3).
After a solid first half, Lille completely dominated the second.
Lille began to flex their muscles in the third with some incisive attacking play. One of Lille’s most important players, Erica Hardy, added two scores early in the period; an excellent strike from the top, before rounding off another counter-attack.
Nancy hit back with some decent scores from Vizcarra and Sabouriaut, but Lille began to capitalise on their dominance in the match. Meijer added her second, and Fitaire pulled off a quick finish at centre. A penalty save from Nancy’s keeper, Lou Counil, was only a few moments to celebrate towards the end of the third quarter.
Into the last, it was three times lucky for LUC from the 5 metre penalty line, with Erica Hardy making no mistake. The eleventh goal scored by Lille was the final nail in Nancy’s coffin; Maddy O’Reilly’s shot appeared to be heading harmlessly into the grasp of Lou Counil, but the ball somehow wriggled under the arms of Nancy’s goalkeeper.
Marko Damjanovic’s team rallied for some pride in the final run-in with Vizcarra and Sabouriat adding to Nancy’s tally. But those scores never threatened Lille’s prospects of making the final.
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