Russia collected a confident win in their first Women’s EHF EURO 2018 Main Round match, defeating Serbia 29:25 thanks to a strong defensive game and stand-out attacking performances from backs Daria Dmitrieva and Anna Vyakhireva. The Olympic champions therefore moved up to six points on the Group I table, where they stand one point ahead of France. Serbia remain in fourth place with two points.
Serbia vs Russia 25:29 (13:16)
Serbia and Russia had never met in an official match, so there was no knowing what to expect. Early on it seemed the sides were well-matched as the game was level through to the last 10 minutes of the half, but then Russia found another gear and left Serbia behind.
Russia goalkeeper Anna Sedoykina was key in her team’s three-goal lead at the break, finishing the half on a rate of 35 per cent after saving half of Serbia’s attempts in the opening 15 minutes. Russia were clearly stronger in goal, as Sedoykina’s co-keeper Kira Trusova also contributed to the half-time result with a penalty save in the 11th minute, 4:3.
Though they did not match Russia’s goalkeeping performance, Serbia’s 6-0 and 5-1 defensive systems were effective in controlling and occasionally causing significant disruptions to the flow of their opponents’ attack. Centre back Daria Dmitrieva and wing Iuliia Managarova led Russia’s attack with four goals each off as many attempts in the first half, and Dmitrieva went on to reach a total of seven.
Rio 2016 MVP Anna Vyakhireva was also exceptional, and Serbia coach Ljubomir Obradovic tried marking the right back completely out of the game for a time after she scored some spectacular goals. Vyakhireva’s efforts earned her the player of the match award.
“I don’t think it was our best game – maybe because of the five days of rest. We had a lot of turnovers, also I think because of this break. But we have a lot of really hard games in front of us. We will keep focused. We will fight till the end and do our best and then we’ll see what’s going to be," Vyakhireva said.
From a score of 10:9 as the clock passed 20 minutes, a 5:0 partial for Russia driven by Dmitrieva, Managarova and Polina Kuznetsova opened a 14:9 advantage for the Olympic champions – and it was during those critical minutes that the match was won.
The top scorer of the EHF EURO 2018, Katarina Krpez Slezak (now 33 goals in total), was the one to break the scoring drought for Serbia, and her team fought their way back into the game for a time. The 2013 world championship silver medallists were helped by a change of goalkeeper, with Marija Colic coming in and saving at 50 per cent early in the second half.
The keeper stopped a penalty when Serbia were still within reach at 16:18 in the 38th, but even though her coach tried the seven-on-six tactic in the following minutes, they could not level the score. Another dominant period for Russia created a goal difference as large as six that Serbia could not come back from.
“We played against the Olympic champions from Rio. They are very well prepared and they know to play on a result. Maybe the importance of this match was problematic for my players today, not to give the maximum. But I would like to congratulate the team of Russia,” Serbia coach Ljubomir Obradovic commented.