26/01/2014

Top scorer Canellas nets another eight to give Spain bronze

MATCH REVIEW: Croatia miss their fourth straight bronze medal after a thrilling 28:29 loss against the world champions

Photo: Uros Hocevar

They danced on the court, they were jumping all over and they were given a big hand by the 14, 000 spectators: For the second time Spain have become EHF EURO bronze medallists.

Led by Joan Canellas, who added eight goals to his tally to become top scorer of the event with an overall tally of 50 goals, the Iberians were lucky to stand the pressure of the Croats, who missed their fourth straight bronze medal after they had finished third at the EHF EURO 2012, the Olympic Games 2012 and the World Championship 2013.

"Obviously I'm very happy. We came here looking for a medal. There is no extra motivation for games like this. You always go 100 per cent," said Spain's Viran Morros

At the beginning Spain were in a better shape in their eighth match in two weeks.

Led by the brilliant Joan Canellas they were ahead by 16:13 at the break in a match that was dominated by the back court shooters.

On the Croatian side Domagoj Duvnjak, who was named 2013 World Handball Player after the match and was also awarded 'Best Player' of his team, and Denis Buntic were the best players before the break, as the Spanish game was a one-man show of Canellas.

"He is an excellent player. The best. And he is an amazing guy on the field and also outside the field," said Duvnjak's teammate Zlatko Horvat.

His third goal that brought the score to 5:5 already meant that he would become the top scorer of the EHF EURO ahead of Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson (Iceland/42 goals).

Canellas stroke eight times in the bronze final and eventually ended with 50 goals overall on his tally.

The Croats were on eye level until the score stood at 12:12, before three goals by Canellas granted Spain a 16:13 half-time lead.

Croatia, however, had a strong start to the second half. After 41 minutes they were close to equalise at 20:21, but missed three straight chances, as Spanish goalkeeper Jose Manuel Sierra stepped up his performance.

Spain lost power and precision in the middle of the second half, the main reason why coach Manuel Cadenas took a timeout ten minutes before the end, when the lead had melted to 24:23.

As the Croats at that time defended much closer against Canellas, All-star Team line player Julen Aguinagalde took the responsibility in scoring for the world champions.

But Duvnjak on the other hand was unstoppable, too. Scoring from all cylinders he kept his team in the race for bronze. When he netted to make it 27:28, he opened some thrilling final 90 seconds, which then were played without him after he received a two-minute suspension.

"We didn’t play as regular as we would have liked. But in the important moments we were there. There were many games, where we weren’t at top level. But this team has a lot of heart," Joan Canellas summed up Spain's EHF EURO campaign.

50 seconds before the end, Canellas stroke again and made it 29:27, but the Croats stroke back. Ten seconds before the end, Cadenas took another timeout, and his team managed to run down the clock to win the bronze medal.

written by Björn Pazen / ts