ROUND PREVIEW: Romania, Norway, Hungary and France all add another two points after wins in Women’s EHF EURO 2016 Qualification Round 2.
Victories for the visitors
Sunday’s big day of Women’s EHF EURO 2016 Qualification matches began with EHF EURO 2014 champions Norway living up to their tag as favourites against Lithuania.
The next match saw a big win for Hungary against Finland, before Romania trailed behind hosts Belarus for 55 minutes only to snatch the victory in the dying moments of the game.
France were the sixth team to make it two wins from two matches, thanks to their victory against Switzerland.
Lithuania were the underdogs heading into the match, so it was somewhat of a surprise when the score was level through the first 15 minutes.
A scoring run from Norway took the Women’s EHF EURO 2014 champions three in front at 6:3 midway through the half, but Lithuania were quick to settle the game again. After 20 minutes, they had reduced the gap to 6:8.
But the reprieve was short-lived. Norway allowed Lithuania a few comfortable minutes before pulling ahead to create a four-goal lead by half-time.
The second period was all about the defending champions. Lithuania came back within two with 15 minutes left, but from there Norway were in firm control.
The top scorer of the game was Lithuania’s Laima Bernataviciute with six goals at 100%.
Belarus vs Romania 23:25 (14:12)
The lead changed hands through the first 10 minutes but it was Belarus who finally created a gap, with Natallia Vasileuskaya giving the home side a 7:5 lead in the 13th minute.
Romania fought back, keeping within one goal of their hosts but always trailing, before a six-minute scoring drought allowed Belarus to inch ahead to 14:11 minutes before half-time.
After the break Belarus wasted no time, recording a 5:3 run that increased their advantage. Romania’s star shooter Cristina Neagu appeared to not be her best and the away team looked to be in serious trouble.
But Neagu found her rhythm under pressure, closing the gap to one with a penalty goal then equalising at 20:20 with just over 10 minutes left.
Romania had found the inspiration they needed – the clock ticked down and more goals from Neagu kept the visitors in the game. As the match entered the last five minutes, Neagu took Romania ahead 23:22, and Eliza Iulia Buceschi scored with seconds left to seal the victory.
Neagu finished top scorer with 11 goals.
Hungary had a nervous start marked by warnings, turnovers and missed shots. But once the visiting side settled into the game they quickly took control, leading 7:2 at the 10-minute mark.
Pamela Degerman contributed six goals in the first half to bring the home team back within reach, but Hungary’s victory never looked in danger. Goals from all over the court helped the away side retain their three-goal advantage at the break.
The second half began with a 2:7 run that put Hungary comfortably ahead 23:15 after 10 minutes. Monika Kovacsicz took her team 10 in front for the first time at 30:20 with just over 10 minutes on the clock, and Hungary had no trouble holding on to take another two points.
Zita Szucsanszki was the top scorer of the match with nine goals, while Degerman tallied seven for Finland.
Switzerland were plagued by low shooting efficiency that made keeping up with France difficult from the outset. The away team were the first on the board and never looked back from there.
After 15 minutes France led 8:6, and a timeout called by coach Alain Portes soon after only helped the visitors better organise their attack.
With strong performances from Siraba Dembele and Manon Houette, who scored six and seven goals respectively, France crept ahead to lead by five at half-time.
The second half was much the same as the first, with France’s superior shooting efficiency one of the key differences between the teams. Where most of the visiting side finished with 100% or near, Switzerland’s average shooting success rate was closer to 50%.
When the home team’s top scorer for the game, Sibylle Scherer, scored her sixth to take the score to 17:24, it was clear France would take the two points home with them.
TEXT: Courtney Gahan / cor
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