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30.05.2018, 20:52
Spain book ticket to France; Slovenia must wait
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QUALIFICATION REVIEW 1: Spain and Hungary take victories in round 5 of Women’s EHF EURO 2018 Qualification, Denmark beat Slovenia in a thriller and Norway continue undefeated
 

Spain and Hungary book tickets to France; Slovenia must wait

Spain were the first to celebrate when EHF EURO 2018 Qualification Round 5 began on Wednesday, as the EHF EURO 2014 silver medallists recorded a victory against Turkey as they moved up to eight points in Group 6 and secure their place at the final tournament in France.

While Norway added a fifth victory to their winning run, Slovenia tasted a bitter defeat at the hands of Denmark. A win against the Scandinavian team could have seen Slovenia book their ticket to France, but now they must await the deciding Round 6 clash against Czech Republic. 

GROUP 1
Ukraine vs Norway 21:26 (8:10)

Norway took the court in Kiev without the likes of Stine Oftedal and the injured Nora Mörk, and the less experienced squad had to work hard to earn the clear win they took in the end.

Unexpectedly, it was Ukraine who took the upper hand early on, before Norway fought their way back level. In the last five minutes of the opening period, Norway pulled ahead by a crucial two-goal margin. At that point, the defending EURO champions could thank an incredible 60 per cent save rate from goalkeeper Katrine Lunde for their advantage.

The second half saw the visitors leading by up to four goals but also fighting off dangerously close comebacks from Ukraine. With eight minutes remaining, Norway led by just two goals, but finished stronger than their opponents to decide the match in their favour. 

GROUP 5
Slovenia vs Denmark 23:25 (12:14)

With their ticket to France on the line, hosts Slovenia put on a thrilling show for their supporters in Celje. EHF EURO 2016 semi-finalists Denmark, playing with 21-year-old Althea Reinhardt in goal rather than the influential Sandra Toft, took the lead and left Slovenia chasing before Tjasa Stanko scored the equaliser for 6:6 in the 11th minute.

Slovenia relied on saves from goalkeeper Karmen Korenic and the outstanding cooperation between backs Ana Gros and Stanko – both of whom were named in the EHF Champions League 2017/18 All-star Team, as best right back and best young player, respectively. Gros pulled the hosts in front for the first time, 10:9 in the 21st minute, but the Scandinavian side reclaimed the upper hand before the break. 

It was neck-and-neck throughout the second half, with Denmark occasionally moving ahead by two goals before Slovenia equalised. With less than two minutes to play and score at 24:23, Reinhardt saved a penalty from Gros to prevent the hosts from levelling – and that was the deciding moment.

GROUP 6
Turkey vs Spain 17:22 (9:9)

Initially, it seemed Spain would have little trouble taking a commanding victory in Amasya, as they kept the hosts from scoring for eight minutes. All that prevented Spain from taking a clearer lead were the saves from goalkeeper Merve Durdu.

After Asli Iskit opened scoring for Turkey with her first of eight goals in the match, the home team quickly become more competitive. Spain made unforced errors against Turkey’s 5-1 defence, while the hosts’ offence settled. Following a hard-fought opening 30 minutes, Turkey took the lead before Spain immediately restored parity before half-time.

But the hosts could not keep up in the second period. From a two-goal advantage in the 40th minute Spain pulled 16:11 ahead in the space of two minutes – and from that point, the visitors maintained control until the final whistle.

GROUP 7
Kosovo vs Hungary 15:37 (3:16)

The tone for the match was set in the first attack, as Kosovo made a technical fault and lost the ball, allowing Hungary to score the opening goal on a fast break. From that advantage, Hungary powered ahead of their hosts thanks to their stronger defence and more efficient attack.

After Kosovo scored their opening goal, it took almost 20 minutes for the next – at which point Hungary held a 10-goal advantage, 12:2, and the contest was all but decided. When Hungary took a 16:3 lead into the break, it was clear Kosovo would need a miracle to turn the tables.

Hungary steadily increased the score line through the second half, finishing with a commanding 22-goal victory to put way more than just one foot in door to the EHF EURO 2018 in France. Their berth at the final tournament will be confirmed if Netherlands do not lose against Belarus on Thursday.*


* an earlier version read that Hungary had already qualified. This has been amended to reflect the possibility that Belarus and the Netherlands could still finish ahead of them.


TEXT: Courtney Gahan / cor
 
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