Determined Poland through to main round

MATCH REVIEW: Russia are out of the EHF EURO and Poland progress to the main round after taking a 29:26 win in a very physical Group A match

Photo: Uros Hocevar

After a disappointing start to the tournament, Poland put on an incredible performance in Thursday's first EHF EURO 2014 Group A match, defeating Russia 29:26 and booking the group's last spot in the main round.

Before the do-or-die match began it was clear Poland could not wait to start what defensive specialist Monika Stachowska described on Tuesday as the "match of our lives".

"I said after the previous match that this would be the game of our life and that's what it was.

"We fought and we did everything that is possible. You can’t imagine how happy that I am now," the abovementioned Stachowska said after the match.

Russia began with the same controlled play seen in their previous two matches, but Poland's sense of purpose was obvious.

When Poland were awarded a penalty, which Karolina Kudlacz (nine goals total and Poland's best player) scored to put the first goal of the match on the board, the team celebrated enthusiastically.

Poland soon found themselves in dangerous territory with the score level at 2:2 however, when Iwona Niedzwiedz received a two-minute suspension in the fifth minute, quickly followed by two minutes for Kinga Grzyb only 25 seconds later.

After ten minutes Russia held a three-goal lead (2:5) and looked as calm as ever, while Poland, with the support of the crowd behind them, were playing with the most determination seen by the side so far in the tournament.

Midway through the half the score was 5:6 in favour of Russia, but the team were not at their best and Poland were defending at full force, which led to more two-minute suspensions and a yellow card for coach Kim Rasmussen.

Russian players were also making unplanned trips to the bench with two-minute suspensions for Victoriya Zhilinskayte and Ksenia Makeeva.

By the 27th minute both Makeeva and Niedzwiedz had received two suspensions each in what was a very physical game.

A half-time Poland held a two-goal lead at 13:11 and showed no signs of running out of steam when the match resumed.

Russia fought back to equalise at 16:16 with a penalty goal by Anna Punko seven minutes into the second half.

The score was equal at 24:24 with seven minutes remaining as two-minute suspensions continued to be given so often it seemed there were rarely 14 players on the court and Russian coach Evgenii Trefilov received a yellow card.

When her third two-minute suspension was given in the 56th minute, Stachowska received a red card, but Poland were not phased as Alina Wojtas (eight goals total) scored her sixth goal of the match to give Poland a two-goal lead at 27:25.

When Wojtas stole the ball with just over two minutes remaining and then scored another goal to put Poland three goals in front, Russia's fate was sealed.

"Thanks, thanks and so many thanks to all the Polish supporters and also so many thanks to the Hungarians,"Stachowska said.

"They were the 8th player today. We literally were one more player today and this was so important to win the match."

After heading into the match generally regarded as the underdogs, Poland's shock upset puts them through to the main round as Russia pack their bags to go home.

written by Courtney Gahan / ts


EHF EURO 2014 Media Day