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08.06.2018, 23:05
Close encounters on first day of play-offs
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DAY REVIEW: Lithuania and Iceland drew, while the Czech Republic narrowly defeated Russia, as the Men´s World Championship play-offs launched on Friday
 

Close encounters on first day of play-offs

The away teams of the first legs seem to stand with the best chances of reaching the World Championship in Denmark and Germany after two close play-off matches on Friday. 

After trailing for most of the match, Lithuania had the win in their hands at home against Iceland but had to make do with a draw, while a goal in the last seconds was enough for the Czech Republic to defeat Russia by one goal after being seven goals down. 

Lithuania vs Iceland 27:27 (10:13)

VELUX EHF Champions League winner, Jonas Truchanovicius from Montpellier HB and his teammates in the Lithuanian national team may still hope to qualify for the World Championship after the draw in the Siemens Arena, Vilnius on Friday evening. 

Not even 17 saves from Björgvin Pal Gustavsson in goal was enough to earn the visitors a win. 

In a low-scoring start, Iceland wemt ahead 2:0 and 3:1, but on 10 minutes, Lithuania caught up at 3:3. 

For the next 10 minutes, the home team constantly managed to chase down Icelandic one-goal leads, but in the last third of the first half, Iceland created a small gap by establishing, first a two, then a three-goal lead. 

Iceland opened the second half by going four goals ahead at 14:10, but Lithuania caught up again, and nine minutes into the half, they even got their first lead at 17:16. 

That lead was increased to 18:16 one minute later, but now it was Iceland´s turn to make a comeback and go two goals up, before the match ended in a thriller after Lithuania had taken back the lead at 24:23 with seven and a half minutes left. 

The last minutes were one long change between a one-goal lead for Lithuania and a stalemate, and at the end, a draw became the outcome. 

This result obviously leaves Iceland with the better chances ahead of the second leg in Reykjavik on Wednesday. 

Czech Republic vs Russia 27:26 (12:17)

The Czech Republic were only ahead twice in this match, at 1:0 and at 27:26, but this was enough for a win despite being seven goals down along the way. 

The Czechs scored the first goal of the match in Plzen, but the next six goals were Russian. 

From 6:1, Russia went on to 8:2 and 11:4, with Daniil Shishkarev top scoring with five goals. 

Four Czech goals in a row reduced the gap to three at 11:8, but for the rest of the first half, the Russian were still leading by between three and five goals. 

Five goals was also the gap at half time, too. 

It took the Russians six second-half minutes to score their first goal after the break, but this did not bother them too much, as they only allowed their opponents to score twice within the same period of time. 

However, as they had to wait another five minutes for their next goal, the situation began to become critical, as the hosts managed to reduce the deficit to just one goal at 18:17, and 12 and a half minute into the half, the Czechs equalised at 19:19.

Six strikes each from Czech top scorers Jakub Hrstka and Tomas Babak had engineered the comeback.

After a few two and three-goal leads for Russia, the hosts equalised again at 26:26 with one minute and 17 seconds left. 

Then, with two seconds left, the Czechs scored the winning goal to send the Mestka Sportovna Hala into wild celebration. 

Russia, however, have a great chance to turn the tables in the return match in Perm on Tuesday afternoon.


TEXT: Peter Brunn /at / ts
 
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