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09.03.2016, 20:50
First wins for Austria, Belarus and Slovakia
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ROUND REVIEW: Serbia defeat fellow frontrunners Czech Republic to secure the lead in Group 2 while Belarus, Slovakia and Austria record their first wins of the EHF EURO 2016 Qualification Phase 2, Round 3
 

First wins for Austria, Belarus and Slovakia

Austria, Belarus and Slovakia claimed their first Women’s EHF EURO 2016 Qualification Phase 2 wins when Round 3 started on Wednesday evening.

In Group 2, Serbia moved to the top of the table with a victory against Czech Republic, while Russia added a crucial two points to their tally, defeating fellow Group 6 leaders Denmark to settle into first place alone on the top of the table.

GROUP 1

Lithuania vs Belarus 21:29 (10:15)

Belarus wasted no time taking control of the match in Kaunas, quickly claiming the advantage to create a score of 7:4 after 10 minutes and a 9:5 lead midway through the first half.

In comparison with Belarus’ line up, many of whom shot near 100 per cent accuracy against the hosts’ combined efficiency of 52 per cent in the first period, Lithuania relied heavily on one player Diana Satkauskaite who kept the hosts just within reach at the break with her five goals.

Lithuania were first on the board when the match resumed, capitalising on two-minute suspensions for Belarus’ Iryna Dronova and Hanna Yashchuk, which gave the home side time to close the score line to 12:15 a few minutes into the second half.

Lithuania’s run was short-lived, however, and once Belarus returned to full strength it did not take them long to increase the gap once more.

Despite an exceptional match from Satkauskaite, who scored nine goals in total, Belarus were never in danger of a loss and the visitors held on to claim their first two points of the qualification phase with a clear win.

Belarus are now third on the table behind Norway and Romania, while Lithuania settle into fourth.

GROUP 2

Czech Republic vs Serbia 25:30 (15:17)

Serbia added another two points to their tally with an away win on new coach Dragica Djuric’s debut that puts them on top of Group 2 with six points.

It was a close first half with Serbia holding a slight edge through the first 30 minutes. Exceptional performances from Katarina Krpez Slezak, Sladana Pop-Lazic and Jelena Zivkovic, who showed they are ready to step into the rather big gaps left by absent stars such as Andrea Lekic, helped the visitors maintain a steady one to two-goal lead until the break.

In the second half Serbia returned stronger, hitting their first four-goal advantage with a goal from Sanja Radosavljevic taking the score to 20:16 after only a few minutes of play.  

The visitors stayed well in control from that point on, and though Djuric rotated through the squad very little, Serbia did not let up and celebrated a decisive win at the final whistle.

GROUP 3

Bulgaria vs Austria 20:33 (10:13)

The more experienced Austria team lived up to expectations on Wednesday, leaving their first-leg meeting with Bulgaria with their first two points of Qualification Phase 2.  

It did not take long for the difference between the teams to show, and the home side were able to keep pace only until the visitors began to open up a clear lead toward the end of the first ten minutes.

Within four minutes Austria turned a one-for-one game into a 6:2 lead, leaving Bulgaria to chase for the rest of the half.

That four-goal difference proved crucial, as Austria retained almost the same advantage at half-time – when Bulgaria were battling on court with four players off on two-minute suspensions.

The numerical deficit was fatal, allowing Austria to quickly increase their lead to five 10 minutes into the second period (19:14).

As the clock ticked on the visitors tightened their grip on the match to win by eight goals at the final whistle.

Beate Scheffknecht showed why Austria coach Herbert Müller was so anxious for her timely return to the squad, scoring eight goals.

Austria are now third on the table behind the Netherlands and Spain, while Bulgaria are left in fourth with zero points.

GROUP 5

Finland vs Slovakia 15:29 (8:15)

Playing at home did little to help Finland, who are competing in this stage of the EHF EURO Qualification for only the second time. The match in Vantaa was rather one-sided with Slovakia in full control throughout the 60 minutes.

After 20 minutes of play Slovakia were in front by a decisive eight goals at 12:4, and at half-time they maintained that advantage.

The second half was a struggle for the hosts, who found the back of the net only seven times, while Slovakia steadily increased their advantage to lead by 14 at the buzzer.

The win in Vantaa was Slovakia’s first in Qualification Phase 2, putting Wednesday’s visitors in third place on the table behind Hungary and Poland.

GROUP 6

Russia vs Denmark 31:27 (16:12)

The fact that Denmark are missing so many key players out with injuries was not obvious through the opening 15 minutes of the match, which saw a one-for-one contest with the visitors just holding the edge.

But after a quiet first 10 minutes, Russian right wing Anna Vyakhireva (nine goals in total) seemed to warm up, signalling the beginning of Denmark’s troubles.

The 20-year-old was responsible for Russia’s first three-goal lead at 8:5 with just over 15 minutes left in the half, and by the end of the period she had contributed seven to her side’s four-goal advantage.

Both teams played a fast-paced game with almost every player stepping on court and adding to the scoreboard. But Russia, with a significant number on their team sheet shooting at 100 per cent accuracy well into the second period, were impossible to catch.

As the clock wound down a period of five scoreless minutes for the hosts allowed Denmark to hope as they closed the gap a little, but when Russia broke the drought in the 55th to take the score to 29:25 it was clear the Scandinavian side would be going home empty handed.


TEXT: Courtney Gahan / bc
 
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