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15.06.2017, 00:10
Norway and Slovenia set up head-to-head deciders in Round 6
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ROUND REVIEW 3: Victories for Norway and Slovenia in EHF EURO 2018 Qualification Round 5 move them to second on the Group 5 and 7 tables, while Germany continue unbeaten.
 

Norway and Slovenia set up head-to-head deciders in Round 6

Wednesday’s EHF EURO 2018 Qualification results mean the second places for Groups 5 and 7 will be decided with head-to-head clashes in the final matches, when Slovenia host Portugal and Norway welcome Lithuania.

Slovenia and Portugal are level on five points on the Group 5 table after Round 5, which means they will fight for a berth in Croatia on Saturday, while Norway and Lithuania will do the same after the Scandinavian team moved up to six points with a win versus Belgium.

In Group 2, Serbia and Poland played a draw that means the slim chance the World Championship 2015 bronze medallists had of qualifying for the EURO has now vanished, while Serbia cannot celebrate their place yet.

GROUP 2
Serbia vs Poland 34:34 (19:19)

With new coach Piotr Przybecki at the helm and the motivation to pull themselves out of what has been uncharacteristic form throughout EHF EURO 2018 Qualification, Poland took to the court determined to earn their first victory.

Serbia won the last match between the sides 37:32, and early in the game in Nis looked set to control the 60 minutes again. The hosts took the lead from the first whistle, with Petar Nenadic pulling Serbia in front to 8:5 at the 10-minute mark, before Poland slowly came back to level at 10:10 at the end of the first quarter.

Then it was the visitors turn to claim the advantage, and they maintained a steady one to two-goal edge right through to the final minute of the half when Rastko Stojkovic equalised for 19:19.

In the second half Poland kept the lead, even pulling ahead to a three-goal advantage on more than one occasion as Serbia rotated through their bench and worked to close the gap.

The hosts simply could not level the score, and as the last 10 minutes began, found their chance to clinch their berth in Croatia just out of reach as Piotr Chrapkowski took the score to 32:30 for the visitors.

Just inside the last five minutes Petar Nenadic tallied his ninth goal to bring Serbia within one at 33:34, and after three tense, scoreless minutes, Dobrivoje Markovic equalised for the home team to end the match in a draw.

Serbia are now on seven points at the top of the table, but could see Belarus draw level with them in first if they win the Round 5 match against Romania on Thursday night. With three games remaining in the group, nothing is decided apart from the fact that Poland are out of the running.

GROUP 5
Portugal vs Germany 26:29 (16:15)

The EHF EURO 2016 champions encountered an unexpectedly tough challenge in Gondomar on Wednesday evening.

Germany stepped on the court with the maximum number of points gained through their unbeaten qualification campaign, and immediately took the lead, appearing to settle into their rhythm as they cruised to a 9:5 advantage by the 13th minute.

But a 5:1 run from Portugal immediately after Uwe Gensheimer’s goal turned Germany’s lead into a one-goal deficit as the home side claimed the upper hand at 10:9.

From that point Germany were kept chasing, as Portugal pulled ahead to 15:12 with five minutes left in the half thanks to Carlos Martins. Germany closed the gap and levelled the score, before Portugal added the last goal of the period courtesy of Daymaro Amador Salina to hold a one-goal edge at the break.

In the second period, it took Germany some time to shake their hosts. After a level 22:22 in the 43rd minute, the score board stayed silent for three minutes before Fabian Wiede took the defending champions one in front again.

The lead changed hands constantly until Wiede and Julius Kuhn earned Germany a two-goal advantage at 26:24 as the last 10 minutes began. Portugal could not close that gap, and it was Wiede that hammered in the final goal of the game to end the match with a three-goal advantage for Germany, who therefore remain unbeaten after five qualification matches.

Switzerland vs Slovenia 20:33 (9:18)

World Championship 2017 bronze medallists Slovenia found the form that saw them record historic success in January, after a rather disappointing showing against Germany in Rounds 3 and 4, to finish Wednesday’s match with a clear victory.

Slovenia left no doubt on the court as they held a nine-goal lead at half-time, with coach Veselin Vujovic using most of his squad while Switzerland relied on their key players throughout the tough contest.

It took little time for Slovenia to find their feet in Schaffhausen, as Jure Dolenec took them to 7:4 in the 11th then struck again for the four-goal distance at 9:5 in the 13th. The visitors held their ground with a steady three to four-goal advantage, before really showing their strength through the final 10 minutes of the half when they created the decisive difference.

Slovenia hit a 10-goal lead (27:17) just inside the last 15 minutes, and as Switzerland grew desperate and left their own goal empty on more than one occasion even the visitor’s goalkeeper Urh Kastelic added two to his team’s tally.

By the final whistle Slovenia were 13 goals ahead, well and truly earning the two points for the victory.

Slovenia could also celebrate a little later that evening when Germany defeated Portugal, as the loss kept Portugal on five points and allowed Slovenia to draw level on the table. Portugal and Slovenia are now tied in second position and the group’s second ticket to Croatia will be decided with their clash on Saturday in Koper.

GROUP 7
Belgium vs Norway 27:43 (15:20)

Norway have a perhaps unrivalled ability to start matches with their engines on full throttle, and they did just that in Leuven on Wednesday night.

With goals raining in from all over the court, the visitors scored five goals in the first five minutes before Belgium found the back of the net for the first time in the sixth thanks to a penalty from Damian Kedziora.

The opening minutes were an ominous sign of what the rest of the match would bring, as Norway refused to slow their pace. The World Championship 2017 silver medallists pulled ahead to lead 12:5 midway through the first half, before Belgium managed to close the distance to five goals by the time the whistle for the break sounded.

But that was the end of hope for the home side, as Norway raced through the second half with almost their entire roster contributing to the effort. Magnus Soendenaa (four goals), Magnus Joendal (six), Kristian Björnsen (five) and Goeran Johannessen (four) all shot at 100 per cent efficiency, while captain Bjarte Myrhol was the top scorer with a tally of eight.

As the last quarter of the game began and Norway were in command at 32:21, there was no chance left for Belgium and they had to settle for their fifth loss of the qualification phase.

Norway’s tally on the Group 7 table now stands at six points, where they sit level with Lithuania in second, making their head-to-head match on Saturday the clash that will decide which team travels to Croatia.


TEXT: Courtney Gahan/kc
 
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