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05.11.2016, 20:15
Germany survive Swiss scare in EHF EURO 2018 Qualification
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ROUND REVIEW 2: Ukraine defeat Iceland, Germany beat Switzerland by one and Sweden win in Slovakia in Round 2 of the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification
 

Germany survive Swiss scare in EHF EURO 2018 Qualification

Group 4 of the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification has been thrown into disarray by a two-goal game between Ukraine and Iceland, which saw Ukraine defeat their visitors 27:25 and therefore add their first two points on the table.

Ukraine not only surprised Iceland with their performance on Saturday, but also opened the group completely as now all four teams – the other two being Czech Republic and FYR Macedonia – are on two points after one victory.

In Group 5 Switzerland came close to an upset of their own, as they lost by only one to EHF EURO 2016 champions Germany in front of a record-breaking home crowd of more than 10,000 fans.

Sweden were the only team to record the comfortable win expected of them, as they added another two points from their encounter in Slovakia.

GROUP 4
Ukraine vs Iceland 27:25 (13:13)

Iceland were the firm favourites to claim another two points from this match-up considering their stronger EHF EURO track record, while Ukraine are aiming for their first successful qualification campaign since 2010.

But Ukraine were stronger from the beginning of the match, creating an early lead at 7:4 while Iceland had difficulty finding the goal. The visitors did not equalise until the 20th minute, and after the first level score of 8:8 it remained a one-for-one game through to half-time.

Ukraine returned to the court stronger after the break, taking a narrow lead with a flurry of goals in the first six minutes of the half that pulled them in front to a two-goal advantage at 19:17. The two-goal difference remained until Iceland coach Geir Sveinsson called a timeout with just over 15 minutes left on the clock and the score at 21:19.

Still Iceland could not shake the two-goal difference, and the game continued as something of a nightmare for centre back Aron Palmarsson, who missed eight of his 14 shots in the game – though he still top scored with a tally of six.

At the final whistle Iceland had not managed to make a dent in the two-goal score line, and the home team celebrated their first win in EHF EURO 2016 Qualification.

GROUP 5
Switzerland vs Germany 22:23 (11:12)

The record-breaking crowd that turned out to watch Switzerland take on Germany were rewarded with a thrilling match that saw the current European champions only just claim their second set of two points in the EHF EURO 2018 Qualification Phase.

Prior to the attendance of 10,040 spectators for Saturday’s round two qualification game, the biggest ever crowd for a handball match in Switzerland was 9,000 at the Men’s World Championship 1986 in Basel.

Initially Germany looked to be set for a more comfortable match when they led 8:4 in the 13th minute, but during the rest of the first half the hosts slowly decreased the score line thanks largely to a great performance from Andy Schmid.

Schmid scored four of the four shots he took in the first 30 minutes to help Switzerland come within one goal by the time the whistle for the break sounded, and the hosts were quick to equalise when the match resumed.

The second half was tightly contested through to the end, with Germany inching in front to a temporary two-goal lead before Switzerland came back, after which neither team could create an advantage of more than one goal.

The game was decided only in the final minutes when Steffen Weinhold scored the last goal of the match and Silvio Heinevetter stopped Switzerland’s final attempt.

Germany are now on four points on the Group 5 table, while Switzerland stay on zero after two defeats.

GROUP 6
Slovakia vs Sweden 17:21 (8:15)

Sweden made it clear immediately they were out to continue their form from round one, when they defeated Montenegro by 15 goals (36:21).

The Scandinavian team started strong, creating a 3:0 lead with all the opening goals scored by right wing Niclas Ekberg before the hosts found the goal for the first time. Already some damage had been done, and as the half progressed and Slovakia made costly errors the visiting team had little trouble pulling further in front.

By half-time the four-time EHF EURO champions led with a seven-goal advantage (15:8), at which point and through the first 15 minutes of the second half it seemed Slovakia would have trouble coming close to their opponents.

At the 45-minute mark Sweden were still well ahead with a 17:10 lead, before Slovakia played a remarkable last quarter and closed the gap significantly – but it was not enough to turn the tide of the game. The outcome had been decided with Sweden’s impressive first half.

At the final whistle the Scandinavian team recorded their second win of the qualification phase, and Slovakia had to settle for zero points from the home encounter.


TEXT: Courtney Gahan / ts
 
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