REVIEW: Georgia, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Luxembourg recorded easy wins in the first matches of the EHF EURO 2022 Qualifiers
Georgia power past hosts Malta, as Luxembourg set up clash against Bulgaria
The favourites had little trouble on the first day of the EHF EURO 2022 Qualifiers, as Bulgaria and Luxembourg jumped to easy wins in Group A, while Cyprus and Georgia are set to be on a collision path in Group B after earning their first two points on Friday.
While Group B’s headliner is scheduled for Sunday, Luxembourg and Bulgaria will meet tomorrow in a do-or-die clash.
Great Britain vs Bulgaria 20:24 (7:10)
A sluggish start for the British side saw Bulgaria take an early lead, but a 3:0 run for the Britons turned the game on its head.
Yet the slim 5:3 lead was obliterated after Great Britain ran into serious trouble in attack, including a 12-minute drought that helped their opponents set up a healthy 8:5 lead.
There was nothing that the British team could do to turn their luck around. A three-goal deficit ballooned to five goals, when there were only 15 minutes to go.
With the next games in mind, Bulgaria stopped short of a lopsided win, as coach Nikola Karastoyanov gave chances to all his players.
The 24:20 win means that Bulgaria will now approach the do-or-die game against Luxembourg tomorrow with their heads up high, while Great Britain could do with a win against Ireland on Saturday.
Luxembourg vs Ireland 35:18 (14:7)
The hosts expected nothing less than a thorough win against Ireland, and duly delivered, taking an early lead and never looking back.
With the Irish were looking for their first ever win in an EHF EURO campaign, Luxembourg jumped to a 3:0 lead. However, a time-out taken by the Irish side managed to get them back into the game, only for the hosts to force their way to a 14:7 lead at the break.
Ireland’s lack of experience showed in the second half, as a relentless Luxembourg side kept pouncing.
Luxembourg will face Bulgaria tomorrow in a match that could see them through to the next phase if they win, while Ireland have the derby against Great Britain.
Cyprus vs Azerbaijan 25:17 (13:10)
A confident Cypriot team was eyeing nothing but a win in their maiden game of the EHF EURO 2022 Qualifiers, yet reality struck in the first half of their game against Azerbaijan.
There were misses and miscommunication for the Cypriot side, who were at the receiving end of a flawless 3:0 run from Azerbaijan to see the latter team take a 6:4 lead.
Troubles mounted in defence for Cyprus, who got four suspensions in the first half, as the undermanned side tried to keep the opponents at bay.
But a strong end to the first half, with a 7:2 run, that prevented Azerbaijan from scoring more than one goal in the last seven minutes, was the turning point of the game, as Cyprus enjoyed a comfortable 13:10 lead at the break.
While the Azeri side might have tried to cut the gap, it was impossible. Cyprus went full throttle and never looked back. With Julios Argyrou in superb form, scoring seven goals, Cyprus jumped to a 25:17 win that can be built upon in the next two games.
The Cypriot side need a win tomorrow against Malta, while Azerbaijan will face Georgia.
Georgia vs Malta 48:21 (29:9)
Malta put on a show when they decided to organise a group in the EHF EURO 2022 Qualifiers, but they did not stand a chance against Georgia in the opening game.
With their eyes set on the prize, winning the group and progressing to the next stage of qualifiers, Georgia enjoyed a flawless start, jumping to a 10:2 lead after only 10 minutes.
It went from bad to worse for the hosts, who could not stop the hearty Georgian offence. There was no surprise when after another 7:0 run the score was 17:2 and everything was set in stone.
The gulf in performance was there to be seen, as the Georgian side had a decisive 29:9 lead at the break. With another two games set to be played and the showdown against Cyprus looming on Sunday, there were changes in the Georgian team, but Malta could do nothing about the scoreline.
Eventually, Georgia enjoyed a lopsided 48:21 win against the hosts, which will surely set them apart and boost their confidence. Giorgi Tskhovrebadze had an amazing night, with 11 goals scored.
TEXT: Adrian Costeiu/jh
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