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EHF EURO

Lucky Spaniards win unexpected close opener

EHF / Björn Pazen

Spain have started the EHF EURO 2022 as they finished the EHF EURO 2020 – victorious. The 28:26 result in the group E opener in Bratislava was the 13th unbeaten EHF EURO match in a row for the defending champions, and the ninth win over the Czech Republic in nine matches.

But the Czechs stood strong – including an incredible strong performance by goalkeeper Tomas Mrkva, who was deservedly awarded Player of the Match. However, Spain were lucky winners in an unexpected close duel.

GROUP E
Spain vs Czech Republic 28:26 (14:11)

  • boosted by their fans and Mrkva’s saves (16 in total), the Czechs had a brilliant start, getting ahead 4:2 in minute 11
  • Spanish goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas became the game changer, his saves were the keys for a 4:0 run of the defending champions, who from that moment on had full control of the match, turning it around to 9:5
  • with superhero Mrkva between the posts, the Czech reduced the gap goal by goal to 15:17, but were hit hard by a three-man-disadvantage at the same time from minute 41 – but still managed to score
  • Rastislav Trtik’s team withstood this critical period and was even near to turning the match around at 19:20
  • Spain pulled ahead to 25:21, but the Czechs kept the pressure on. It was a double strike by Antonio Garcia, for 27:24, which was decisive in the thrilling encounter

Czech fans create home match atmosphere

The atmosphere in Bratislava was thrilling, with almost all 1,173 fans in the arena standing as one behind the Czech team. They cheered, they sang, they shouted – pushing their team to the limit against the defending champions.

Every goal, every save by outstanding goalkeeper Mrkva caused an eruption in the arena. Definitely this was a home match for the Czechs, and even as they lost, the fans gave the team a big hand for their brave performance.

"We saw an impressive Czech performance, it was really complicated for us, as always first matches are hard for us. The Czechs were very efficient and we had difficulties to find the key to open the door in the second half. Our defence was strong, and I am very satisfied with their performance – including goalkeeping - during the whole match. I am quite satisfied with our attack, as we lacked efficiency. But we have our first two points, this is what we wanted to achieve in this match," commented Spain's coach Jordi Ribera.

"Thanks to our supporters, they were really great. I am disappointed and angry as we lost, but we can be proud of this performance against the defending champions," commented Mrkva.

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