Montenegro seal qualification as Spain and Austria win again

QUALIFICATION REVIEW 2: Montenegro clinch their berth with a commanding win against Poland, as Austria and Spain take their third victories of the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 Qualification Phase

Spain's 27:23 win over Germany put them back on top of Group 6 after four matches. Photo: RFEBM/J.L. Recio

After Denmark booked their place at the final tournament when they defeated Czech Republic on Saturday night, Montenegro became the second side to clinch their berth at the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 with a masterful victory over Poland. Led by an outstanding game from Jovanka Radicevic (11 goals), Montenegro had little trouble claiming the win at home and taking their points tally to eight.

In Group 6, Spain took their third victory, as they avenged a decisive defeat versus Germany in the first match of their double header.

The situation in Group 4 after a confident win for Austria that wrapped up Saturday’s EHF EURO 2018 qualification matches is interesting. With the clear victory against Portugal in Bregenz, Austria moved up to six points – leapfrogging both 2016 Olympic champions Russia and World Championship 2015 bronze medallists Romania.

Russia and Romania will meet for the return leg of their double header on Sunday, when one will join Austria at the top of the table and one will be left in a precarious position in third. No team in Group 4 can secure their ticket to France this round, and all will be decided in the final games in May and June.

Montenegro vs Poland 33:23 (14:13)

Montenegro set the tone for the match immediately, scoring the first two goals unanswered and racing to a 6:3 lead by the 10th minute. Right wing Jovanka Radicevic was quick to make her mark. By the time she pulled Montenegro to a commanding 9:5 lead in the 15th minute, she already tallied six goals at 100 per cent.

Recording seven turnovers in the first 20 minutes worked against Poland, so it was an achievement when the visitors found themselves only one goal behind at the break. Radicevic finished the first half with nine goals, and went on to tally a total of 11 as Montenegro steamrolled the second period.

With 15 minutes on the clock, Radicevic pulled the hosts further ahead, 23:19, with her 11th goal – and the distance only grew from there.

While Montenegro now count eight points, Poland remain on four, and will have to wait until the final qualification rounds to determine their fate.

Austria vs Portugal 29:24 (16:11)

Following their shock win against current Olympic champions Russia in Round 2, Austria continued along a positive path as they claimed a second win against Portugal in the last game of the double header match-up.

After a level 1:1, Austria kept Portugal scoreless for more than 10 minutes while they streaked ahead. When Portugal found the goal for the second time at the end of the first quarter, Austria were well in command at 8:2.

Impressively, Portugal fought their way back to within three goals before letting their hosts pull away again for a clearer half-time advantage. In the second period, Portugal worked hard to close the gap and did remarkably well to decrease the deficit to three at a crucial point in the match. With seven minutes on the clock, Austria held a 24:21 lead that was far from assurance of the two points.

However, the hosts held on to finish with a four-goal distance in their favour, securing their third victory overall.

Spain vs Germany 27:23 (12:9)

After Germany defeated Spain by a surprisingly decisive advantage of nine goals (33:24) in the first-leg clash between these sides on Wednesday, Spain showed the result was a not a true representation of their level when they assumed the role of winners on Saturday. After a close, low-scoring opening 20 minutes, the EHF EURO 2014 silver medallists began to create a clear lead, hitting 10 goals to Germany’s seven in the 25th minute.

Nerea Pena and Alexandrina Cabral Barbosa were key in Spain’s attack, as both carved their way through Germany’s defence. At the other end of the court, goalkeeper Silvia Navarro caused the visitors trouble. After Spain held a three-goal lead at half-time, they did not relent.

Germany coach Henk Groener tried a more offensive 5-1 defensive formation, but it did not bring his side close to levelling the game. At the final whistle, Spain celebrated their third victory in four qualification matches, which took them to the top of the Group 6 table on six points – one ahead of Germany.

written by Courtney Gahan/jh