The highly anticipated meeting between the two top teams in Group A finished with a 27:26 Spanish win against Hungary on Thursday night in Györ.
“It was our dream to go to the main round with four points in a group which was really difficult. I will tell my players that these four points are important, but now we have to keep the good job up and go step by step," said Spain coach Jorge Duenas.
While Spain bagged the maximum of four points, Hungary, on the other side, will only take the two points they have from their win against Poland to the main round.
The meeting between the two already-qualified sides promised to be one of the most exciting matches of Group A, with both teams competing for the two points that would put them in the best position possible for the main round.
The atmosphere in Audi Arena when Hungary took to the court was electric. The underwhelming first match played by the tournament co-hosts against Russia (29:29) was a distant memory, as the teams played an even game that saw goals being scored one for one for most of the sixty minutes.
Defence was excellent from both sides and goalkeepers Silvia Navarro for Spain and Hungary's Eva Kiss made it difficult for the ball to hit the back of the net.
Spain's more aggressive defensive system gave them a slight edge as Hungary faltered occasionally with limited passing options.
Every error was punished, and Spain's calmer attack allowed them to create a two-goal lead at 8:6 by midway through the first half.
A series of goals from right wing Monika Kovacsicz and a two-minute suspension for Spain captain Marta Mangue helped Hungary keep in touch, but Spain's defence and fast attack meant they held a narrow lead as the half progressed.
Hungary equalised at 11:11 through an Ildilko Erdösi fast break with five minutes in the period remaining, and at half-time the score was level at 13:13.
The second half was just as closely matched as the first, though the packed arena began to become a real factor for Hungary as the home side's defence intensified.
Captain Zsuzsanna Tomori in particular was thanking the crowd with her performance, scoring three goals in a row to take Hungary ahead at 18:20, then stealing the ball to create a successful opportunity for Szimonetta Planeta.
“It was an important game against Spain. But the EURO is still going on; we still have three games left. So we must not feel upset about the result. Looking at the result of the Norway vs Denmark match, we still have hope,” Tomori said.
Their lead did not last long though. Several goals from Carmen Martin (ten goals total and 100% scoring efficiency) closed the gap for Spain to equalise at 22:22 in the 48th minute.
“I am lucky. Today I received a lot of balls with a lot of space and this gave me more possibilities to try different ways to shoot. If the team works like today, everything is easy,” Martin said after the match.
Spain coach Jorge Duenas received a warning with just over eight minutes remaining when Hungary up by one goal on 23:24.
With two minutes left the score was level before Mangue scored to put Spain in front by one at 27:26.
Spain's Elisabeth Pinedo received a two-minute suspension with just over a minute remaining, presenting Hungary with an opportunity to score the much-needed tying goal, but an attacking foul from Tomori sent the home side back to defend and Spain held possession as the clock wound down.