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27.09.2017, 21:32
Defending champions open qualification with home win
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ROUND REVIEW 1: The first round of Women’s EHF EURO 2018 Qualification begins with victories for Croatia, Norway, Poland, Romania and Hungary.
 

Defending champions open qualification with home win

The first matches of Women’s EHF EURO 2018 Qualification saw home victories all around. Croatia and defending champions Norway opened with wins against Switzerland and Ukraine in Group 1, while Poland recorded a commanding victory versus Italy in Group 2.

In Group 4, World Championship 2015 bronze medallists Romania claimed a strong win versus Austria in Ramnicu Valcea, as EHF EURO 2014 co-hosts Hungary defeated Qualification Phase 2 debutants Kosovo in Group 7.

GROUP 1
Croatia vs Switzerland 32:28 (19:12)

The opening match for Group 1 saw an exciting contest decided in the final minutes, with the home team claiming the two points – but not without a second-half scare from Switzerland.

With returning Nenad Sostaric at the helm for what was his first official match since being named coach just a week before the match, Croatia played an up-and-down match at home in Zagreb. 

Initially, Croatia’s defence had difficulty stopping Switzerland’s attack. After a shaky first 10 minutes during which the visitors held the advantage, the home team equalised then took the lead at 7:6 with Vesna Milanovic Litre’s opening goal.

With goalkeeper Ivana Kapitanovic performing wonders in goal, saving shots which should have been certain goals for Switzerland, Croatia increased the gap – though the five-goal distance that stood at half-time was far from decisive or comfortable.

In the second period, Switzerland slowly crept back. Croatia held on but the momentum seemed to favour the visitors, who came within two goals late in the game, putting the home team under pressure.

A time-out with less than two minutes remaining was just what Croatia needed as they scored the final goals of the match to finish with a victory.

Norway vs Ukraine 35:22 (19:13)

Current world and European champions Norway started their EHF EURO 2018 Qualification campaign with the expected victory and two points won at home in Stjordal. The Scandinavian team wasted no time taking the lead, with Camilla Herrem pulling the hosts 8:4 in front with a wide-angle shot from the left wing.

Norway led 11:7 by the 15-minute, but something lacking in defence meant their dominance did not translate to the scoreboard as Ukraine kept within reasonable reach.

In the 20th minute, Nora Mork scored a penalty which pulled Norway 13:9 ahead, before her side opened a six-goal lead before the break.

Norway streaked through the second period, with coach Thorir Hergeirsson rotating his deep squad to allow every player to make their contribution to the team’s first two points of the campaign, which they took thanks to a 13-goal advantage at the buzzer.

GROUP 2
Poland vs Italy 40:13 (16:8)

Poland took charge early, opening a 7:3 advantage after Kinga Achruk’s in-flight goal on the 10-minute mark. Midway through the half the scoreboard did not reflect Poland’s dominance, as they led 9:6 when coach Leszek Krowicki began to rotate his line-up.

Poland changed to a 5-1 defensive system which further disrupted Italy’s attack, causing the visitors to record six turnovers in the first half as opposed to the home team’s one. The hosts counted a lead of eight goals as they left the court for the break, appearing well on their way to their first two points.

In the second half, Poland tightened their hold on the match considerably. Allowing their visitors just five goals in 30 minutes. The home team raced to the final whistle, never dropping their intensity, and celebrated a commanding win.

GROUP 4
Romania vs Austria 36:25 (18:11)

Although Romania finished with a clear victory that set them on a positive path toward the EHF EURO 2018, it took some time for them to settle into the game.

Austria played a 5-1 defence, targeting left back and current World Handball Player of the Year Cristina Neagu, but Romania’s biggest weapon found her way to the nine metre line and inflicted damage on the scoreline whenever she did so.

Austria held the edge through the opening 10 minutes before Romania capitalised on a two-minute suspension to claim the upper hand. As the hosts pulled 9:6 in front, the difference between the sides began to show.

The World Championship 2015 bronze medallists slowly increased their advantage, with some great saves from goalkeeper Denisa Dedu and few changes to the team on court, to earn a seven-goal lead at half-time.

It seemed Romania only needed more of the same in the second period to claim the win, and they did just that. Yuliya Dumanska stood in Romania’s goal in the second 30 minutes, forming the other half of the Romania goalkeeping duo following the retirement of stalwart Paula Ungureanu.

With 15 minutes left on the clock, the hosts were clearly on their way to a victory as they stayed in front 27:19, taking a comfortable two points at the final whistle.

GROUP 7
Hungary vs Kosovo 37:12 (18:5)

The two points available in the Group 7 opener were never in question. Thanks to a great performance from goalkeeper Kinga Janurik, which paved the way for counter attack goals, Hungary immediately took the lead against the team contesting their very first match in Qualification Phase 2.

After their first goal, Kosovo were kept from scoring for almost 10 minutes while Hungary built their advantage. The visitors began to find the goal again but as the hosts were comfortably in front at 9:3 in the 18th minute, the situation looked ominous for Kosovo.

With 12 minutes before the half-time whistle sounded, Hungary doubled their own score while allowed Kosovo only two more goals, taking a 13-goal lead into the break that indicated the match was all but decided. Kosovo’s scoreless periods made it difficult for them to challenge the hosts, and in the second half Hungary continued to move further in front.

At the 50-minute mark, the score board showed 30:12 in favour of the home team, and at the final whistle, Hungary celebrated their first two points on the road to France with a 25-goal win.

 


TEXT: Courtney Gahan / cor
 
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