The fans in Tondela saw a game of two completely different halves in the final match of Round 3 of the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 qualification.
First, Austria were dominant, but then the Portuguese hosts managed to come back, and, in the end, the visitors took two important points, keeping them in the race for a ticket to France.
After the completion of Round 3, Austria are equal on four points with top dogs Romania and Russia in Group 4.
Though their team captain and number one goalkeeper Petra Blazek was ruled out with a finger injury, the Austrians played a dominant role in the first 30 minutes. Backed by a superb defensive performance, the three points already seemed guaranteed by the break.
But the team of head coach Herbert Müller struggled right up until the end to gain their second straight EHF EURO Qualification win after their sensational 27:25 victory against Olympic Champions Russia in Round 2.
Their opponents Portugal improved in defence and Austria ran out of power the advance melted goal-by-goal. Within 12 minutes of the break the hosts managed to climb back from a 17:11 six-goal deficit to just two (23:21) and even two team timeouts by Müller could not stop the Austrian downswing immediately.
His side were extremely shaken, and Portugal swiftly netted in to make it just a solitary one-goal difference in favour of the Austrians (28:27) with just six minutes to go. But Austria dodged a bullet as when the hosts had the chance to level the score, Soraia Alexandra Vieira Lopes missed a counter-attack against Austrian goalkeeper Antonija Curic and this failure was the end of the Portuguese hopes.
It also inspired Austria to forge ahead to 31:28 and finally realise a hard-earned victory, as their hosts were beaten for the third time in their third qualifier.
On Saturday (24 March), both sides will clash again, in Austria, in the rematch.
Patricia Emidio Rodrigues top-scored for the home side with 10 goals, while Beate Scheffknecht grabbed nine for the visitors, Austria.