Lavko saves lucky Serbs; France, Romania and Russia with tough tasksArticle
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QUALIFIERS REVIEW 2: Faroe Islands and Iceland came close to sensations against EHF EURO 2018 semi-finalists, while Russia and Croatia took clear victories

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Lavko saves lucky Serbs; France and Romania with tough tasks

While Serbia were extremely lucky to take their second victory of the EHF EURO 2020 qualifiers, versus Slovakia, Romania and France had to break much harder resistance from the Faroe Islands and Iceland than expected.

Russia and Croatia also took clear wins in round 2 on Sunday – so far, all winners from round 1 have also taken both points in round 2.

  • Jelena Lavko secures a lucky Serbian victory with the final buzzer in Slovakia

  • Faroe Islands goalkeeper Annika Petersen saves 17 shots against Romania

  • Iceland miss a sensation against France due to scoring only two goals in the last 17 minutes

Slovakia vs Serbia 26:27 (11:10)

It was a back and forth match, with constantly changing leads, and finally the Serbians were the lucky winners of the closest encounter of round 2 so far. The match winner was Jelena Lavko, who scored off a penalty shot with the final buzzer. Even 11 goals from Reka Bizinova were not enough for the hosts to take their first points of the EHF EURO 2020 qualifiers.

After the clear defeat in Russia on Wednesday, Slovakia showed a completely different face and were ahead most of the second half. 10 minutes before the end, the hosts seemed to be on the way to a win, leading 20:17.

But the visitors fought back, and the last minute was all thrills: First, Serbia missed a chance, then Slovakia caused a turnover seconds before the end. In their final attack, Serbia’s top scorer Sladana Pop-Lazic (seven goals) was fouled, and Lavko showed no nerves from the penalty line.

Switzerland vs Russia 26:35 (13:15)

Olympic champions Russia had to break tough Swiss resistance before the ultimately clear victory was confirmed. The host, who had lost their opener 23:35 in Serbia, were perfectly prepared by coach Martin Albertsen for the first official duel with Russia. Switzerland made their fans happy as they pulled ahead, leading until minute 23, 10:9.

Then the favoured visitors turned the match around, first by taking a 15:13 lead in time for the break and then with three straight goals right at the start of the second half. From that moment, Russia pulled ahead goal by goal, including for the only double-figured advantage, at 34:24.

After beating Slovakia 34:15 in round 1, this was the second victory for new Russia head coach Ambros Martin.

The Rostov-Don stars Anna Vyakhireva (seven goals), Iuliia Managarova (six) and Anna Sen (five) made the difference against the home team. Switzerland’s top scorer was Kerstin Kündig, with seven strikes.

Iceland vs France 17:23 (10:13)

Anyone who thought the roles would be clearly marked when the defending world and European champions took on a team that had just been defeated 8:29 in Croatia was proven completely wrong.

Iceland showed their Viking spirit and mentality. Though the French started brilliantly, leading 4:1, the hosts never gave up and were close to turning the tide, at 8:9.

Even the three-goal advantage at the break did not offer stability to France, while the Icelandic defence stood extremely strong. But the fact that the hosts scored only two goals after minute 43, 15:18, destroyed any chance they had created of taking the points.

France cheated the gallows with a strong finish and are on course for the next EHF EURO, while the unlucky Icelandic side still have no points in their account.

Turkey vs Croatia 21:30 (8:16)

After their 29:8 win against Iceland in round 1, the rejuvenated Croatia team showed from the beginning that they intend to continue on the winning path.

After an equal start from both sides, the visitors easily pulled ahead to 16:8 at the break, using their physical advantages in the back court and their higher speed in counter attacks.

Like in their opener, Croatia’s defence was outstanding, keeping the Turkish side under 10 goals for 41 minutes, when they netted for 10:23. When coach Nenad Sostaric started his rotation, Turkey managed to reduce the gap – but were far from being able to endanger the visitors. 

The top scorer was Croatia’s Valentina Blazevic, with eight goals.

Faroe Islands vs Romania 20:25 (12:11)

On their first participation in the EHF EURO qualification phase 2, on the way to France 2018, Faroe Islands lost their six matches by an average of 13.3 goals. On Wednesday in round 1 of the EHF EURO 2020 qualifiers, they were taught a 16:28 lesson in Poland – but on Sunday, the Nordic side had a great match against EHF EURO 2018 semi-finalists Romania.

The fact that they were still missing their mastermind Cristina Neagu due to a knee injury was not an excuse for such a lacklustre Romanian performance as that which occurred in Torshavn. Backed by goalkeeper Annika Petersen, who had the match of her life, with 17 saves, Faroe Islands were sensationally equal or even ahead through almost the whole first half.

Romania struggled to find their pace. The 2015 World Championship bronze medallists had an incredible number of technical mistakes and were far below their regular level, after they had problems beating Ukraine on Wednesday (27:24). 

The hosts did not run out of power in the second half, as the deficit was only four goals, at 19:23, as late as minute 56. However, Romania held on to collect the points. 

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg