The Women’s EHF EURO 2018 Qualification Round 3 opened with a clear win for 2016 Olympic champions Russia, which saw them draw level with their opponents, Romania, on four points at the top of the Group 4 table.
Denmark and Montenegro continued their strong form as they each collected their third win in as many qualification matches – both playing away in the first leg of their respective Round 3 and 4 double headers. Denmark recorded a clear victory over Czech Republic, while Montenegro defeated Poland.
It was a clash of group leaders in Gdynia, with both Poland and Montenegro bringing an unbeaten run and the maximum four points to the first clash of their double header this week.
After a level opening 20 minutes during which Montenegro held a steady advantage of one to three goals, the visitors firmly took control to establish a distance of six by half-time. It was a 6:0 partial toward the end of the first 30 minutes and through to the beginning of the second period which saw the visitors decide the match, leaving Poland to fight to keep the scoreline as low as possible.
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With the last quarter of the game remaining and an advantage of seven (21:14), Montenegro did not let up as their Head Coach Per Johansson kept key players such as Katarina Bulatovic, Milena Raicevic and Jovanka Radicevic on court, ensuring that the visitors cruised to a six-goal win, moving them to six points on top of the Group 2 table.
Following a shock loss to Austria in their previous EHF EURO 2018 Qualification match, 2016 Olympic champions Russia were under pressure to re-establish themselves as a threat and add to their points tally. From the outset the home side’s motivation was clear, as they created an 8:4 advantage by the 10th minute.
Romania coach Ambros Martin rotated his line-up and replaced Yuliya Dumanska with Denisa Dedu in goal, but the hosts created a lead of up to six goals (14:8) in the first 30 minutes, although a strong finish to the first half saw Romania decrease the distance before the break.
QUICK PICK: A best player of the match performance from Daria Dmitrieva as her 10 goals help @rushandball to a 30:25 victory over #Romania in their Women's #ehfeuro2018 Qualification Phase 2 match. #handballissime pic.twitter.com/1QTbvQYSTh
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After the pause though Evgeny Trefilov’s Russia side returned with a different defensive system and immediately reopened a decisive advantage to tighten their hold on the game thanks to Romania taking almost five minutes to open their second period account.
The home side held a confident 27:22 lead as the last 10 minutes began, and when they maintained control at 30:23 with five minutes on the clock, the two points were decided.
Early on it seemed Denmark would have little difficulty claiming the two points in the first match of their dual encounter against Czech Republic, as the visitors forged ahead to a 5:1 lead by the ninth minute before the hosts added their second goal. Two goals from Jana Knedlikova after the 10-minute mark brought Czech Republic within one, and the match became a tight contest until just before the last 15 minutes.
Though the hosts threatened a comeback, with just a one-goal deficit at half-time, the game was steadily in Denmark’s favour as the Scandinavians held a lead of two to three goals through the opening of the second period.
Stine Jorgensen added her fifth strike to pull the Danes in front to 19:16 in the 42nd minute and from there, the visitors opened a more decisive distance that Czech Republic could not close.