DAY REVIEW: European powerhouses Spain and Russia faced challenges as the play-offs for the Women’s World Championship 2017 got underway on Friday.
Favourites in trouble on the first day of play-offs
Some of the traditionally big nations were in trouble as the first four matches in the European play-offs for the Women’s World Championship 2017 took place on Friday.
Russia had the biggest win, but still needed 35 minutes to get clear of Poland, while Spain only managed to draw with Ukraine despite being seven goals up.
Montenegro were trailing for a long time before defeating Belarus, and Romania had to wait until the last minutes to create a fairly reassuring lead before their away game against Austria.
Russia vs Poland 31:20 (15:14)
Russia had to struggle for 35 minutes to create a decisive lead in front of 6,000 spectators in Astrakhan on Friday afternoon.
Despite establishing an early three-goal lead, Russia were not able to fight off the visitors at first, and 20 minutes into the match, Kinga Achruk equalised at 10:10 for Poland.
The playmaker from Montenegrin club Buducnost went on to gisve her team the lead 90 seconds later. Even though the Russians took back the lead, they were still only one goal up at half time.
However, after a further Polish equaliser to open the second half, Russia scored five goals in succession in the next five minutes.
From this 20:15 lead, the home team went on to 23:16, and for the rest of the match, they left no doubt about the result.
From 24:18, Russia increased their lead to an 11-goal win, which they should have no trouble defending in the return match in Kozalin in Poland on Thursday.
Daria Samokhina scored nine goals for Russia, while Achruk was the most successful shooter for Poland with five goals.
Ukraine vs Spain 24:24 (10:16)
A fantastic comeback in the second half of Friday’s match will give Ukraine hope of qualification as they travel to Spain for the second leg on Wednesday.
Under their new coach Carlos Viver, Spain seemed to be cruising towards an easy win in the first half.
Ukraine did equalise an early Spanish two-goal lead at 5:5, only to see the visitors score no less than seven goals in a row. Spain went into the break six goals up.
The second half turned the game upside down. Not only did Ukraine manage to catch up, but they were leading by two goals a few minutes before the end.
However, Spain managed to score the last two goals of the match and put themselves in a more favourable position before the return match next week.
A total of 1,500 spectators saw Viktoriya Borschenko score nine goals for Ukraine.
For Spain, Carmen Martin and Alexandrina Barbosa Cabral were the highest-scoring players with five goals each.
Montenegro vs Belarus 33:26 (12:15)
A stellar second half meant that Montenegro will probably not have to fear the trip to Minsk for the second leg on Thursday.
However, the Montenegrins were trailing for a long time before they managed to set things right.
They got going early with a 2:0 lead, but then Belarus took over and had several four-goal leads, the last one being at 16:12 at the beginning of the second half.
Slowly, Montenegro came back into the match, and eight minutes and 22 seconds into the second half, Djurdjina Jaukovic gave them back the lead at 19:18.
Jaukovic also made it 20:18, and from that point on, the home team did not look back, but increased their lead more or less continuously to seven goals at the end.
Jaukovic scored nine goals – including the first five Montenegrin goals in the match – while Anastasiya Mazgo hit the net five times for Belarus.
Romania vs Austria 34:29 (17:16)
Romania have a very realistic hope of going to Germany in December, but it took the favourites a long time to create their relatively reassuring five goals lead before going to Stockerau on Tuesday.
Romania led through most of the match, apart from an Austrian 15:14 lead towards the end of the first half. However every time the Romanians got two or three goals up, the visitors came back.
Not until the last 10 minutes, in which Romania managed to increase their advantage to six goals at 34:28, did the home team managed to establish a deciding lead.
A total of 10 goals from Patricia Kovacs and nine from Sonja Frey were not enough at the end for Austria against a Romanian team, for whom Cristina Neagu and Valentina Ardean Elisei scored seven goals each.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / jh
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