Montenegro win the battle for first rank in Group II

MATCH REVIEW: The defending champions stage a late comeback to book their ticket to the semi-final with a 30:29 win against Sweden in Main Round Group II

Photo: Stephane Pillaud

It was true battle, a fight until the buzzer and even beyond it - and in the end the defending champions left previously unbeaten Swedes behind 30:29 (13:18).

The last Swedish chance to score, a direct free throw of Linnea Torstenson with the entire 60 minutes already played, hit the net but only on the outside, and as their victory was sealed Montenegro started celebrating.

Courtesy of their third victory in their third main round match Montenegro top Group II with eight points and reached the semi-final in Budapest.

If Sweden accompany them, will be decided in Wednesday's last match in Zagreb, France against Netherlands. France are already out of the equasion, while Sweden have to hope that Netherlands do not beat France by 10 goals or more.

For Montenegro it is the second semi-final participation after the EHF EURO 2012 in Serbia.

Already the match's initial stages showed the high significance for both sides - it was more a battle than a match.

Both sides played a tough and aggressive defence, and it only took ten minutes until Montenegro had lost one of its key players. After a foul against Sweden's Torstenson, Suzana Lazovic received a direct red card.

"It was very tough to watch this match from the stands, but I feel much better after my team achieved another victory. I'm glad that my team showed how good we can be even if I am not playing at the line player position," Lazovic said.

At the time of her disqualification the score stood at 5:5, but Montenegro seemed to be shocked by the disqualification as Sweden scored three unanswered goals.

It was once more Isabelle Gullden who played a brilliant match for Sweden, scoring seven of her nine goals before the break.

Montenegro never gave up; and when they had reduced the gap to 11:12 it looked as if they were on the edge of turning the match around.

However, the Swedish downswing did not last long.

The Scandinavians, who once more replaced their goalkeeper by an additional field player when they were one player down, took full control in the last eight minutes of the first half - line player Linn Blohm's goal right on the buzzer saw her team leading 18:13.

The second half was as tough as the first. It was a pure fight for every centimetre of court and for every ball.

The defending champions had the better start for themselves as they were supported by an improving performance of goalkeeper Sonja Barjaktarovic who saved eight shots in the second half.

"The half-time team talk was the key because we said to each other that in the first half that was not our game; we had to play better," said Majda Mehmedovic.

"And we succeeded because we believed in our victory even when we were down by five."

In the span of eleven minutes the Swedish advantage melted from five to only two goals at 22:20.

The Scandinavians lost their rhythm, their power and their ideas in attack and it was only courtesy of goalkeeper Filippa Idehn that Montenegro did not level the game earlier.

This eventually happened in the 52nd minute when a Katarina Bulatovic rifled an 11-metre shot into the Swedish net to bring Montenegro back at 26:26.

Sweden were clearly shocked as Jovanka Radicevic, who was awarded best player for Montenegro, gave Montenegro the lead at 29:28, scoring her ninth goal in the game.

Andjela Bulatovic then brought the score to 30:28 and Jessica Helleberg's goal came too late for Sweden to level the game once more.

Sweden equalised once more, but it became too late to counter Montenegro's last strike.

written by Björn Pazen / ts


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