Russia earned their second final berth at the EHF EURO 2018 with a commanding win, 28:22, against Romania. The Romanians could only cope with Russia’s speed and strength for 30 minutes, as they lead by as many as three goals, only to find themselves outperformed by a skillful Russian side in the second half.
"We made it here step by step, game by game, and we’re happy that we reached the final. And now we’re focused on the final," said Russia wing Iuliia Managarova.
Russia lost the final at the EHF EURO 2006 against Norway, but will hope to be luckier this time, as they will meet France or the Netherlands on Sunday.
Russia vs Romania 28:22 (16:15)
While many saw Russia as the overwhelming favourites, Ambros Martin looked like he got the best from the Romanian side early on. In attack, he relied on players who are usually defensive specialists, like Ana-Maria Dragut and Gabriela Perianu, Romania jumped to an early 3:1 lead.
Russia temporarily took the lead before a 5:1 run from the Romanian side – with five different players contributing – turned the game on its head. Romania boasted a 9:6 lead after 16 minutes.
The Romanians scored their 2,000th EHF EURO goal when Cristina Florica took the score to 12:10, but their opponents were having none of it – that was the moment when right back Anna Vyakhireva took control of the game. The 23-year-old scored five of her eight first-half goals in the last 14 minutes and Russia claimed the lead, 16:15, with 12 seconds remaining before the break.
A nine-minute run without a goal scored was Romania’s undoing. Russia built a 5:0 partial during this period and were virtually unassailable, taking a four-goal lead, 19:15. Injured captain Cristina Neagu tried to inspire her teammates at half-time, going into the locker room to provide advice and help, but it was not enough.
Romania’s grit and passion were still there, but they lacked the clarity in attack to provide the same performance as in the first half. Every metric was down, as the turnover rate spiked, the shot selection was poor and the defence could not find the needed stops, allowing Russia to jump to a seven-goal lead, 26:19, after 47 minutes.
There was no coming back for Romania, as Vyakhireva, the Player of the Match, capped her magical 13-goal performance for Russia to earn a commanding 28:22 win.
“We are truly sad about this loss. We believed we could be better, we believed in ourselves, but something was wrong in the second half," said Romania line player Crina Pintea. "Vyakhireva is like a feather. She found some small spaces in our defence which even we did not know existed."
Russia will face France or Netherlands in the final, as Romania will fight for their second bronze medal at the EHF EURO, after taking it home in 2010.