28/09/2019

Poland win nail-biter in Ukraine; Sweden cruise to maximum points

QUALIFIERS REVIEW: The opening matches of round 2 of the Women’s EHF EURO 2020 qualifiers saw Sweden enjoy a comfortable victory, while Poland and Czech Republic had to work hard to fight off determined Ukraine and North Macedonia

Sweden secured their second win of the qualifying phase by beating Portugal

Sweden became the first team in the EHF EURO 2020 qualifiers to take their points tally to four when they earned a clear win over Portugal in the opening round 2 match on Saturday evening. Sweden are now in a leading position in group 5, while Portugal stay on zero points with what was their second defeat.

Czech Republic joined Sweden on four points at the top of group 5 a little later in the evening, when they earned an eight-goal win against North Macedonia in Skopje.

In group 7, Poland secured a narrow victory over Ukraine in a game that was undecided until the final minute. Poland also moved to four points with their win, while Ukraine remained on zero.

GROUP 5
Portugal vs Sweden 19:38 (7:15)

After a nine-goal victory over North Macedonia in round 1, Sweden recorded an even more commanding win over Portugal in Tondela.

Portugal could keep the game level for only the opening five minutes, before four unanswered goals from the visitors took the score from 2:2 to 2:6. While Sweden keeper Filippa Idehn had some great saves in the early stages, including a penalty, Portugal’s goalkeepers were more effective at stopping Sweden’s attempts.

However, the Scandinavian side’s defence allowed fewer chances, and turnovers from Portugal created opportunities for easy goals that increased Sweden’s advantage to a comfortable distance of eight at half-time.

Portugal did not reach the 10-goal mark until the 38th minute – and the outcome was clearly decided earlier. When Sweden led 20:8 just five minutes into the second half, there was no doubt they would maintain the control asserted in the first 30 minutes.

North Macedonia vs Czech Republic 29:37 (14:14)

It took 45 minutes for Czech Republic to finally shake North Macedonia off, in a match where the guests repeatedly pulled ahead before the hosts came fighting back.

The clearest lead for Czech Republic in the first half stood at four goals. After the score of 10:14 with just over three minutes until the break, four consecutive goals to end the half saw North Macedonia pull the game level just in time.

The second period saw exactly the same story, with Czech Republic creating a narrow cushion before North Macedonia decreased the distance. Czech coach Jan Basny changed the defensive formation between 6-0 and 5-1 in an attempt to tighten his team’s hold on the game.

It was a goal from Dominika Zachova in the 42nd minute that reopened the difference of four – and proved the pivotal moment. North Macedonia decreased that distance twice more, but after 22:25 with 15 minutes on the clock, the momentum swung firmly towards Czech Republic.

With an important save from keeper Lucie Satrapova and a goal from Iveta Koresova that opened a 32:25 gap with just over five minutes until time, the two points were decided.

GROUP 7
Ukraine vs Poland 26:27 (14:14)

Just like Czech Republic in group 5, Poland faced hosts who refused to give in. Ukraine fell behind repeatedly throughout the opening half, but would always fight back to level. In a tense match with nothing decided until the last minute, it was a goal from Aleksandra Zych that won the game for Poland.

Early on, Poland may have felt they had an easier task on hand than it turned out to be. The visitors hit a clear 7:2 advantage after eight minutes, which seemed a promising opening – but the hosts settled into the game and slowly reduced the deficit. After 1:1 in the opening minutes, the game was level for the first time at 9:9 in the 21st, and it remained an equal contest at the half-time break.

Ukraine claimed their first advantage five minutes into the second half, 17:16. It stayed a level game but it was now the hosts who had the edge, always scoring first and leaving Poland to equalise. A change in line-up, including the entry of Women’s EHF Champions League 2014/15 winner Kinga Achruk, helped the visitors flip the momentum once more.

Poland held a steady one- to two-goal lead in the closing minutes, and had a one-goal edge with possession as the last 60 seconds began. When Zych sunk the breakthrough goal from right back, the two points were secured.

written by Courtney Gahan / jh