Spain preserve unbeaten run with magnificent comeback
The unexpected nature of handball was once again on display in the Ondrej Nepela Aréna in Bratislava, as Spain secured a crucial win in the EHF EURO 2022 main round’s group II, completing a magnificent comeback against Russia, 26:25.
‘Los Hispanos’, who are now on a 17-game unbeaten run, top the group with six points, four more than Russia, Norway, Sweden and Germany, being only one step away of securing their sixth semi-finals berth in a row.
Russia vs Spain 25:26 (11:12)
- with only 14 minutes to go in the game, Russia was cruising to a four-goal lead, 22:18, but could only score three times before the end, with Spain completing a superb comeback
- Russia had the chance to save a point from this match, yet left wing Igor Soroka, who scored four goals in the game, missed a penalty after the final whistle, hitting the post
- Spain’s main problem in the game, as in the whole tournament so far, was their attacking efficiency. This dropped to 45 per cent in the 44th minute against Russian goalkeeper Victor Kireev’s astonishing display
- the Grundfos Player of the Match, Russia’s Dmitry Zhitnikov, scored only one goal, but was the focal point of Russia’s attack, dishing 12 assists. He now tops the tournament standings in that category, with 31 assists in five games
- Spain extended their record unbeaten streak in the competition to 17 games and are now five for five at the EHF EURO 2022
Russia fail to adapt to Spain’s wildcard
Russia have only themselves to blame for this loss, which could prove pivotal for their future in the competition, as they are now four points behind Spain in group II’s standings.
Velimir Petkovic’s side led by as many as four, but were unable to adapt to a masterful stroke of genius from Spain’s coach, Jordi Ribera, who changed the defensive system from the traditional 6-0 to the more aggressive 5-1, taking out Zhitnikov’s creativity. From that moment, Russia scored only three times in the last 14 minutes and it was game over, especially after Soroka missed that fateful last penalty.
Yet Spain have to ask themselves a question or two about their attack. They have a 58 per cent attacking efficiency in the tournament, the second-worst in the competition, after Bosnia and Herzegovina. They will need to convert the clear-cut chances in the future, as their opponents get tougher and tougher.
Russia play a fantastic tournament. For us, it was a difficult match from the beginning. We knew they know how to manage the rhythm of the match, they had a great goalkeeping and defence. The crucial point in the second half was, when we struggled tactically, but then changed some things in attack and could count on our defence to win those two very important points.
We are disappointed that we lost but we are not disappointed that we lost against Spain, the defending champions of Europe.