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03.05.2017, 23:18
Perfect debut for Prokop while Spain struggle in Austria
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ROUND REVIEW 2: Germany record a nine-goal win against Slovenia on new coach Christian Prokop's official match debut, while Spain encounter unexpected trouble against Austria.
 

Perfect debut for Prokop while Spain struggle in Austria

Germany coach Christian Prokop’s official match debut could not have been more of a dream – the 2016 champions continued their strong form through EHF EURO 2018 Qualification with a surprisingly clear away victory against World Championship 2017 bronze medallists Slovenia, beating their opponents by nine goals on Wednesday night.

In Group 3, Austria shocked Spain with a closer match than might have been expected, though the EHF EURO 2016 silver medallists claimed the win with a goal in the last 30 seconds.

Lithuania added another set of two points to their tally with a victory against Belgium, but just like Spain, had to pull themselves out of a perilous deficit to do so.

GROUP 3
Austria vs Spain 29:30 (13:14)

Spain were not expected to have quite the trouble they did against Austria, though they entered the match without long-time stalwarts Raul Entrerrios and Victor Tomas as coach Jordi Ribera elected to use the qualification matches to try new players.

Also absent was goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas, fresh from his exceptional VELUX EHF Champions League Quarter-final performance for FC Barcelona.

Whether the three absences were key or Austria were simply strong, the match was nevertheless equal. Spain held a one to two-goal lead through the first 30 minutes, but could not shake off their opponents completely despite goals raining in from all positions.

At half-time the EHF EURO 2016 silver medallists had a one-goal advantage, and as the second period began found themselves scrambling as Austria pulled ahead by as many as five goals before Spain began to decrease the score line.

From 24:19 with 15 minutes left, Spain steadily closed the gap and equalised with a rare goal from defensive specialist Viran Morros – who hit the net twice in the match.

But Austria continued to evade their visitors, keeping just ahead until the last minute when a goal from Ferran Sole sealed the victory for Spain.

GROUP 5
Slovenia vs Germany 23:32 (12:19)

The match between World Championship 2017 bronze medallists Slovenia and EHF EURO 2016 champions Germany was expected to be a close encounter, but Germany wasted little time allowing their opponents to settle into the match.

Germany’s Uwe Gensheimer was first on the board followed by Slovenia’s Jure Dolenec, and the two remained their sides’ key attacking players throughout the first half.

Gensheimer (11 goals) scored fast breaks off saves from Andreas Wolff while Dolenec led his team in positional play, but Germany’s defence proved a tough system to break even for the creative right back.

After 10 minutes the visitors had already created a three-goal advantage at 6:3, and Slovenia seemed to have no answer as the 2016 Olympic bronze medallists steadily increased their lead.

Paul Drux took the score to 14:7 in favour of the visitors as the clock ticked past 20 minutes, and Slovenia could not close the gap before half-time.

Though Slovenia coach Veselin Vujovic tried different defensive formations in the second period, even the most aggressive were not enough contain Germany’s attack.

With 15 minutes remaining Fabian Lemke was sent off for two minutes, but as his team held a comfortable 24:16 lead at that point his absence had little impact.

Slovenia pulled off one of the most spectacular comebacks on the handball court when they won the bronze medal at the World Championship in January – however, as the full-time buzzer drew nearer it was clear they would not be able to repeat the feat on Wednesday night.

When Wolff made a double save off a Dolenec penalty and the subsequent rebound shot, Germany remained in front 29:22 with five minutes left and the two points were decided.

GROUP 7
Belgium vs Lithuania 29:33 (18:15)

Belgium continued their trend of stunning favoured opponents for one half when they took to the court against Lithuania on Wednesday night in Leuven. The hosts entered EHF EURO 2018 Qualification Phase 2 through Phase 1, and were therefore considered underdogs – before they came very close to upsetting world champions France with only a one-goal loss in Round 2.

Lithuania had themselves caused a serious upset when they defeated World Championship 2017 silver medallists Norway, also in Round 2, and so both sides were well aware their rivals could not be underestimated.

Belgium immediately showed they are a dangerous side to face at home, holding a narrow edge through the opening minutes to lead 9:8 as the clock hit 15 minutes.

The remainder of the first half was level, with Lithuania’s Aidenas Malasinskas and Belgium’s Damian Kedziora dominating the score board, before a 3:1 run for the hosts pulled them ahead to a three-goal lead at the break.

But Lithuania struck back with Jonas Truchanovicius (eight goals) taking control early in the second period, scoring three straight goals that brought the visitors back within one at 21:20.

As the last 10 minutes began, Lithuania claimed the upper hand at 26:25, and quite suddenly Belgium’s dreams of a victory at home were dashed.

The visitors sprinted home to the final whistle, outscoring their opponents 7:3 to finish with a four-goal win that meant they moved up to four points alongside Norway and France.


TEXT: Courtney Gahan / ew
 
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