Denmark became the first side to join France on the list of teams to contest the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 when they maintained their perfect qualification record on Saturday afternoon in Aarhus. The EHF EURO 2016 semi-finalists defeated Czech Republic to take their points tally to eight, while the visitors remain on three.
The opening Round 4 clash saw a thrilling 60 minutes in Slovakia, ending with the hosts defeating Italy to move up to four points in Group 2. Meanwhile, Sweden and Serbia must continue the fight to win Group 3 after the Scandinavian side avenged their loss to Serbia in Round 3 and drew level on six points.
Slovakia vs Italy 20:17 (8:11)
The final three-goal difference did not reflect the tight contest over 60 minutes as both teams had the chance to claim the two points in the second match of their doubleheader on Saturday afternoon.
The first half saw Slovakia hold the edge in the opening quarter before Italy turned the tables. Though Slovakia responded to Italy’s improved attack by changing their defence from 6-0 to 5-1, they could not stop their visitors from taking a dangerous three-goal advantage into the break.
Slovakia resumed the match with more offensive defence, confusing Italy’s attack and keeping the guests out of the goal for the first 10 minutes of the second half. Supported by a strong game from goalkeeper Lucia Gubikova, Slovakia closed the gap and claimed the upper hand.
Italy chased their hosts and reduced the deficit to one, 18:17, inside the last five minutes. But Gubikova prevented the Italians from scoring again and her team scored the final two goals of the game to claim victory.
Sweden vs Serbia 31:30 (16:13)
Just like the first clash in Serbia on Wednesday night, Saturday’s match was a thrilling encounter. On Wednesday, Serbia were behind for most of the game, but fought back to turn a six-goal half-time deficit into a seven-goal victory.
Saturday saw a similar pattern, but Sweden learned their lesson this time around and did not allow their guests to pull away in the final minutes, withstanding the pressure to win with a goal from back Jamina Roberts in the final seconds.
Thanks to the strong 6-0 defence from both sides, goals were hard to come by early on, with only four scored in the opening 10 minutes. The majority of the first half saw the sides trade goals, before Sweden created the three-goal half-time edge with a last-second shot from Isabelle Gullden.
Serbia were quick to level the game in the second half, but neither team could create a comfortable advantage. Sweden took a timeout with the score level at 30:30, before setting up the last shot for Roberts, who converted five seconds before the final buzzer.
Though Czech Republic presented a strong challenge, Denmark were never really in danger of failing to win the crucial two points at home. By the 10th minute the hosts had already created the key advantage they would hold through most of the game, leading 6:3.
A scoreless period of more than five minutes to end the first half did not help Czech Republic’s cause, and as the second 30 minutes progressed that three-goal distance proved impossible to shake.
Denmark played the second half with 21-year-old Women’s 19 EHF EURO 2015 gold medallist Althea Reinhardt in goal, who lived up to the high standards set by first choice keeper Sandra Toft and was named the player of the match.
The hosts maintained control throughout a low scoring second half and although Czech Republic came within one in the last minute, it was too late to grab a point and Denmark held on to celebrate their fourth win in four matches and a spot at December’s final tournament.