Montenegrin win in 'Balkan classic' pushes Serbia out of the semi-final race

GROUP I REVIEW: In a thrilling clash, Montenegro beat arch-rivals Serbia to keep their semi-final hopes at EHF EURO 2018 alive

Milena Raicevic was the Player of the Match in Montenegro's win over Serbia in Nantes on Monday. Photo: Uros Hocevar / Kolektiff Images

Player of the Match Milena Raicevic scored six goals overall, five of them in the second half, to help Montenegro rally from behind and beat Serbia 28:27 in a nerve-wrecking do-or-die Group I match in the Hall XXL in Nantes.

While Montenegro keep their hopes for a final weekend in Paris alive, Serbia have no more chances to repeat their 2012 semi-final appearance.

"We showed from the first moment to the last one that we wanted this one to win," said Montenegro's Jovanka Radicevic.

"We are aware that there were a lot of ups and downs and many mistakes but our our hearts and big characters gave us this victory."

Serbia, who led by as many as four goals in the first half, failed to score from their last attack in the final minute and 12 goals scored Katarina Krpez Slezak went in vain.

Before the last set of matches on Wednesday, the race for the second semi-final spot remains open as three teams – France, Sweden and Montenegro - can still eye the medal round and join Russia from Group I.

Serbia vs Montenegro 27:28 (15:12)

The match opened with furious pace and courtesy of several brilliant plays of Majda Mehmedovic and Jovanka Radicevic, Montenegro took an early three-goal lead (6:3) after seven minutes. 

However, Serbia recovered quickly and kept their opponents scoreless for eleven minutes, with another scoring spree of the tournament’s current top scorer Katarina Krpez Slezak giving Serbia momentum.

Even an injury to goalkeeper Katarina Tomasevic, who had to be helped from the court ten minutes before the break, did not hamper Serbia’s game who found themselves three goals ahead early in the second half. 

Jelena Lavko scored the 800th Serbian goal at EHF EUROs (17:14) but right afterwards Montenegro started their comeback, orchestrated by clever passes of Milena Raicevic, who also added several brilliant goals to her tally.

Despite trailing by three goals 90 seconds before the final buzzer, Serbia refused to roll over and had the chance for a draw – but they did not get to a shot on Marina Rajcic’s goal in the dying seconds of the match.

written by Vlado Brindzak / ts