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13.10.2014, 11:20
Injury-struck Montenegro show ups and downs against Slovenia
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REVIEW: The injury-struck defending champions struggle in their national team week double-header against Slovenia, but nevertheless show signs of promise ahead of the Women’s EHF EURO 2014.
 

Injury-struck Montenegro show ups and downs against Slovenia

The national team week just passed was only a partial success for the Montenegro’s women’s national team, as the defending champions struggled in their two test matches against Slovenia.

Dragan Adzic and one of the youngest team he ever fielded date took the warning signs seriously, recuperating after the two-goal 26:28 (15:12) defeat in their first match on Thursday, to outmatch the side selected by Marta Bon 29:26 (17:13) on Saturday, allowing several of their key players much needed rest.

The preparation of the defending champions was hampered by injuries of Jovanka Radicevic and Andjela Bulatovic.

The minor injury sustained by the team captain Marija Jovanovic also meant that Milena Knezevic played more than originally planned.

Knezevic, who had come second in the top scorer of the EHF EURO 2012 with 41 goals, struggled throughout, scoring only three goals in two matches, which was – admittedly – partly due to the stellar performance of Slovenian goalkeeper Misa Marincek.

Struggling with fitness was also Majda Mehmedovic. Despite the fact that the left winger was used only sparingly as a precaution, Mehmedovic had seven goals to her name in Montenegro’s first match defeat.

"The national team week came in a bit of an awkward moment for us. We are waiting for some injuries to subside, and most of our players have their Champions League fixtures soon after," said Montenegro coach Dragan Adzic, admitting he was looking to turn that into his advantage, testing younger players and trying alternative tactical approaches.

"I am happy to be able to give more playing time to the youngsters, and try different rotations in due course," said Adzic, revealing his plans during the preparation period.

Finding the right balance

Montenegro opened the first match of their double-fixture confidently, before complacency kicked in midway through the first half. Their game plan started to collapse approaching the twenty-minute mark, when inefficiency and lack of defensive focus paved the way for Slovenia’s win, after snatching the lead in the opening minutes of the second half.

"This loss served as a warning. Especially for the more experienced players. We cannot approach games like that, especially against such a quality opponent," admitted Dragan Adzic to the Handball Montenegro web portal.

Adzic had a tougher than usual task of finding the right balance on the court, due to fatigue and injuries to several key players.

Montenegro will be happy that Katarina Bulatovic displayed excellent form. The quintessential sharpshooter topped the scoring charts in both matches, as her nine goals were key to Montenegro win in the second encounter.

The 'Lionesses' managed to rediscover their lock-down defence in the second match, aided by 13 saves from the young Ana Rajkovic and the return of line player Suzana Lazovic.

The 22-year-old Lazovic will have a big opportunity to shine at the EHF EURO 2014, as the young pivot is envisaged to follow the footsteps of legendary Ana Djokic.

If their Slovenia double-fixture is anything to go by, the defending champions are already plotting tactical surprises for their games against Serbia, Slovakia and France.

Slovenia did well to emulate the rivals Montenegro will face in EHF EURO 2014 Group D, giving players and the coaching staff something to think about until December 8, when they will meet Serbia in their first match in Osijek.


TEXT: Nemanja Savic / ts
 
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