NC Vouliagmeni have secured their place in the Greek women’s championship finals after a hard-fought penalty shoot-out victory against Ethnikos.
In what can be described as a throwback to low-scoring games, Kiki Liosi’s Nautical Club will face Olympiacos in the championship-deciding series. However, their passage to the finals was anything but straightforward, as they had to navigate through a best-of-three semi-final series against a resilient Ethnikos side.
The game was low-scoring and remained deadlocked at 5-5 even after the thirty-two-minute mark, ultimately requiring penalties to decide the outcome. Both teams’ keepers put on an impressive display, stealing the show from the 5m line. However, it was Maria Kotsioni’s heroics in saving Alkistis Benekou’s penalty that sealed the win for the Blue-Whites.
While Vouliagmeni’s regular-season performance justified their place in the finals, it can be argued that Ethnikos played better over the course of the three semi-final legs. Stefanos Leandros – who was absent from the bench due to suspension for this game – will be back for his team’s third place play-offs against Glyfada.
Vouliagmeni last won the league in 2012/2013.
NC Vouliagmeni 10 – 9 Ethnikos (0-0, 1-1, 3-1, 1-3, PSO: 5-4)
Vouliagmeni: M. Kotsioni, S. Kaiafa, D. Kalogeropoulou, E. Elliniadi 5, I. Giannopoulou 2, A. Ridge 2, E. Tankeeva, K. Stratidaki 1, D. Andreadi, M. Mimidis, F. Angelidis, E. Patras, E. Markatseli, N. Krassa.
Ethnikos: E. Sotireli, A. Karampetsu, M. Borisova 2, E. Laskaridou, I. Kontoni 3, E. Beta, F. Chatzikyriakaki, A. Benekou 1, M. akitzi, E. Kanetidou 2, I. Benekou, C. Andrews 1, A. Bekri, E. Katsimpri, A.Klapsianou.
Vouliagmeni and Ethnikos could only be separated by penalty throws, after an extremely low-scoring but tense third and final semi-final. The game finished 5-5 in normal time, but Vouliagmeni ultimately prevailed after sixteen penalty shots.
So often are goalkeepers given less credit than they are due, but it’s no exaggeration to say that this semi-final was all about the two fantastic performances from the players in the red caps – Eleni Sotireli for Ethnikos, and Maria Kotsioni for Vouliagmeni. Both were in inspired form, contributing to such a low scoring game. In addition to their normal-time heroics, both saved a hat-trick of penalties in the shoot-out.
As it turned out, it was Athina Giannoupoulou who scored the ‘winning’ penalty for Vouliagmeni; her national team teammate, Eleni Elliniadi, missed and scored one penalty in the shoot-out, after scoring three in regular time.
Defence was king in the first half, with neither side able to break the deadlock after eight minutes. At the turnaround, the score was 1-1. The goal-mouth action improved in the second half, and it was Vouliagmeni that packed the first punch to lead 4-2, but Ethnikos responded well, and tied the game up in the final quarter to send the game to penalties (5-5).
Following the trend of the match, it was those in between the posts that played the biggest part in determining the course of the penalty shoot-out. Both keepers, Eleni Sotireli and Maria Kotsioni, made three crucial penalty saves. There was only one miss in the shoot-out from Ethnikos’ young talent, Ariadna Karampetsou. Alkistis Benekou was the final penalty taker, who saw her shot parried well by Kotsioni to send the Nautical Club to the championship finals.
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