Confident Croatia cruise past Montenegro

MATCH REVIEW: Croatians advance to the main round after coming out on top in a goalkeeper duel

Photo: Brian Lindberg Jensen

The after match award should be renamed goalkeeper of the match, as Mirko Alilovic with his 44 per cent and Mladen Rakcevic's 33 per cent saving rate saw them both nominated Player of the Match for each team.

Montenegro, who managed to stay in touch with Croatia in the first half, never had a chance as the whistle started the second half and lost 22:27 in the end.

"Everybody knows the problems and injuries we've had leading into this tournament. At the same time we are a very young and unexperienced team.

"Particularly in the first half we have shown what characterises the team which is strong heart, fighting spirit and good defense," said Montenegro's left back Vasko Sevaljevic.

It was an intense game as teams played a physical brand of handball under high pressure from both sets of fans, with plenty of supporters making the long journey to the Brondby Hallen.

The match started with a penalty on both ends of the court, a strong indicator of how tough a fight it would be in both defences.

The Montenegrin penalty specialist Igor Markovic helped his team get off to a good start, as he scored from the seven-metre line nine minutes into the first half with the score at 4:4.

Croatia, who also suffered from a poor performance in the first 15 minutes against Belarus, struggled to keep their neighbouring country from scoring.

"I’m happy with the points but I’m not satisfied with the game we played. Our defence wasn’t good enough and we had a lot of trouble with Montenegro passing balls to the line player, even though that was what we were trying to stop them from doing," said head coach Slavko Goluza.

Montenegro bravely kept up with the pace set by the Croatian team, when Vasko Sevaljevic scored his third goal reducing the gap to only one goal at 7:8.

Mirko Alilovic started to get a good grip of the shooters, as he pulled off sensational saves and limited the shooters to 62 per cent in the first half.

Head coach Zoran Kastratovic could see his Montenegrin team loosing their concentration, as they at several occasions made technical faults and attacking errors, despite only being one goal down at half time, 12:13.

Stepping up a gear

Throughout the first eight minutes of second half the Croatian team, which looked rather shocked after only having one goal lead at the half time break, managed to extend their lead to five when Ivan Cupic scored to make it 18:13.

"Of course we wanted to forge ahead by five or more goals right from the start. But in the beginning our defence was too weak.

"That’s also what we improved in the second half which was the key for our victory today," Cupic said.

Midway in second half the Montenegrin team fought bravely to close to gap, as the top score Sevaljevic, who once again scored, reduced the Croatia lead to only three goals at 21:18, the 25-year-old kept his team in the game with a total of nine goals.

However, a deficit of three was the best that Montenegro could manage in second half as Croatia started pulling away with seven minutes remaining and closed the game out with relative comfort. 

written by Mie Østergaard / cor