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07.05.2017, 19:35
Portugal pass Slovenia as Lithuania overtake Norway
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ROUND REVIEW 4: Portugal, Lithuania and Netherlands each record second wins in their respective EHF EURO 2018 Qualification double headers.
 

Portugal pass Slovenia as Lithuania overtake Norway

Two World Championship 2017 semi-finalists are facing a struggle in their qualification campaigns for the Men’s EHF EURO 2018.

After silver medallists Norway and bronze medallists Slovenia lost their respective qualifiers on Saturday against France and Germany, they were passed by their hunters on Sunday.

Thanks to their easy-going win against Belgium, Lithuania are now two points ahead of Norway after four qualification rounds, while Portugal passed Slovenia courtesy of their two points from Sunday’s victory versus Switzerland.

In Group 1, Netherlands kept their hopes of reaching the final tournament in Croatia alive with a close win against Latvia.

GROUP 1
Netherlands vs Latvia 25:24 (13:14)

While Latvia have zero points, the Dutch have a good chance of finishing as one of the top two teams in the group.

After their 29:27 win in Latvia on Thursday, coach Joop Fiege’s squad beat the Baltic side for the second time to count four points in their account. But it was a much harder nut to crack than on Wednesday.

Apart from a great start for the visitors that saw them lead 6:2 and 7:3, the match was on eye level. From minute 17 and the score of 6:9, neither side could pull ahead by more than three goals.

Thanks to a triple strike, the Netherlands levelled the result at 9:9 for the first time, but were unable to firmly take the lead for some time. Boosted by six goals from tall shooter Dainis Kristopans, Latvia were either ahead by one or held a level result.

It was not until minute 45 that Bobby Schagen netted for the first Dutch lead at 20:19. Despite a red card against Toon Leenders in minute 52, the hosts forged ahead to a decisive 24:21.

Latvia did not surrender, but the time was ticking against them. When he took the score to 25:22, Tim Smits ended all hope for the visitors as though they came close, it was not enough.

The top scorer for the Netherlands was Tim Remer with six goals.

GROUP 5
Portugal vs Switzerland 27:22 (17:10)

Thanks to their second victory against Switzerland (after the 27:25 result on Thursday), Portugal grabbed their chance and passed Slovenia in the group ranking.

While the World Championship 2017 bronze medallists remain on three points after two defeats against Germany, Portugal are on five ahead of the rematch in Slovenia in the last round of qualification.

Switzerland kept pace until the score of 6:7, before the hosts easily forged ahead to a 14:8 advantage.

The visitors lacked precision in attack, while Portugal defended well and attacked with a clearly higher efficiency.

Portugal-Switzerland_Schmid_565

As the visitors counted mainly on their mastermind Andy Schmid (top scorer for Switzerland with five goals), Portugal acted as a team. Nine different players scored before the break, when the gap stood at seven goals.

When the visitors netted three unanswered shots right after half-time, a little glimpse of hope was burning, but Switzerland could not force the momentum to their side and Portugal kept a constant advantage of five to six goals.

Coach Michael Suter’s team did not give up however. When Swiss wing Manuel Liniger finished a 5:1 series that took the score from 22:16 to 23:21, the gate appeared to be open.

Though Portugal were shaken, they did not fall. A double strike from the home side’s top scorer Fabio Magalhães for 25:21 decided the encounter three minutes before the end.

GROUP 7
Lithuania vs Belgium 33:28 (18:11)

When the score of a handball match is 12:3 after 16 minutes, one can say that the deal is essentially sealed.

Thanks to this perfect start, Lithuania decided the unequal encounter after one quarter of the match, enabling them to rotate the bench and easily keep their opponents at bay. In contrast to their performances against the Baltic side and France at home, Belgium were far below par on Sunday in Vilnius.

Thus, the hosts claimed the two expected points very early and easily – and are now ahead of World Championship runners-ups Norway on the group table.

Arturas Juskenas’ team will meet the Scandinavians away in the final round of EHF EURO 2018 Qualification matches, and will face the tough task of France at home in Round 5. Before Norway take on Lithuania at home, they will play Belgium away.

Lithuania learned their lessons from the much narrower 33:29 victory against Belgium on Wednesday.

Though the advantage melted to seven goals (18:11) at the break, the victory was never endangered. But despite the clear deficit, Belgium did not give up and even won the second half 17:15.

While Montpellier’s Johan Truchanovicius was the top scorer for Lithuania with six goals, Thomas Bolaers and Damian Kedziora struck five times each for Belgium.


TEXT: Bjorn Pazen / cg
 
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