© David Damnjanovic

Serbia disrupt Greek attack, proceed to final

With reaching the final of the 2016 European Championships Serbia did nothing more than living up to the expectations. The pressure was with the reigning champions who defeated Greece 7-13 in the semifinal on Wednesday, in front of another sell-out crowd at the Kombank Arena. They made the final for the 6th time in the last seven editions since 2001.
Fierce defence had to disrupt the great Greek attack and after a little difficult start the Serbs stuck to the plan and succeeded walking away from the Theodoros Vlachos coached side in especially the third quarter. Greece was held to shooting 30% on 7 for 23 and needed indidivual efforts to score, opposite to the usual feared team attack. On the other end the start to the game was not exactly as planned but the emphasis was on defence. On attack Dusko Pijetlovic helped the team through the opening phase by scoring twice only to see Alexandros Gounas levelling each time for Greece. The last laugh was for Serbia though as Dusan Mandic powered through on man-up with 6 seconds to go in the quarter giving Serbia the 3-4 lead. Things slowly turned around in the second quarter. Or actually the Serbian plan of fierce, physical defence on the Greek attack started to display results. The players had trouble setting up set plays and could hardly reach centre forwards Konstantinos Mourikis and Christodoulos Kolomvos. It led to forced, mostly outside shots that excelling goalkeeper Branislav Mitrovic saved. The Serbian scoring came through only late in the period. Patience as the experienced side remained, they got rewarded past the halfway-point as Mandic again found the back of the next. It looked almost liberating as the Greek defence, until then keeping the scoring down, was dismantled. Two minutes later, standout Dusko Pijetlovic could simply not be stopped and gave his team a 3-6 lead at half-time in what looked to be the first step towards a victory.
It proved only to be the start of it. In the third quarter Serbia got really in control as now also the offence started to roll. First Angelos Vlachopoulos hit a nice shot to cut the deficit for Greece to 2 (4-6), but then Milos Cuk (on a great fake) and Andrija Prlainovic (after a rough openening phase) came through. Prlainovic felt it and scored one more only to see team-mate Filip Filipovic blast one home in the final minute of the quarter with the score now being boosted to 4-10 and the game already decided. Greece did not stopped playing and scored the first two goals of a bit slower final session but halfway through Dusan Mandic found Nikola Jaksic wide open on extra man giving the crowd something to cheer for once more. Filip Filipovic made the people rise by scoring from outside on a seemingly effortless, yet fierceless rocket for the 6-11 score and did it again two minutes later with now people starting to rise and chanting on the Serbian victory. Vlachopoulos tried to stop the noise from the crowd by scoring 22 seconds before the end but even after that the Serbs replied. Stefan Mitrovic got the people leaving in excitement as he netted one with 4 seconds on the clock for the 7-13 final score. A seemingly controlled win that only confirmed the title-contender status of the two-time defending champs.

Top scorer Filip Filipovic post-game explained the plan the Serbs had: ''Our target was to pressure Greece in all parts of the field. To tire them as much as possible. As we already saw in the second quarter they were making changes, it was a sign for us that we succeeded, and it was just a matter of time before we would break this great Greek team'', Filipovic said. ''We managed to force them to go for individual choices over their team play and I think that caused this result.''
Now Serbia will meet either Hungary or Montenegro in the final on Saturday. Filipovic has no preference but hopes to be able to play free of pressure: ''We will have the advantage of playing in this pool in front of our home crowd. Also we will have the pressure, but I hope the people will release us from this must-win expectations as our greater goal of course will be in Rio. I'm happy to be in the final, everybody expected us to make it, but a final is just one game and can go either way'', Filipovic concluded.

Malta vs. Slovakia

A good start by Slovakia has the team playing for 13th place at the European Championships. The 1-4 lead over Malta after the first quarter in Wednesday's opener at the Kombank Arena in Belgrade proved the foundation upon which an eventual 9-17 win was build. In the second and third term Malta stayed close with their opponents, led by Steven Camilleri who was on target once more scoring 6 goals. In the final period however even he could not avoid Slovakia walking away to the seemingly comfortable win. Now the winner of Turkey-Georgia will be the next opponent when the 13th place is at stake on Friday. Malta will try to avoid finishing last playing the loser of the Turkey-Georgia match, to be played tomorrow.

Romania vs. Germany

In the second game Romania came out as winners but only after a crazy back-and-forth game that went onto penalties after Germany's Mateo Cuk tipped in the equaliser in the buzzer at the end of regulation. It came after a up and down game that saw Romania coming out strong taking a 5-2 lead beforfe the Germans took over after the main break. The Patrick Weissinger coached squad turned things around with a 0-4 run that brought them the lead. And when Marko Stamm netted the 6-8 early in the final period things looked good for Germany. But Romania responded. Top scorer Tiberiu Negrean half a minute later scored the 7-8 before Paul Schueler got Germany back to leading by 2 goals: 7-9. But then Romania's turn was there. Cosmin Radu and Negrean again levelled the score at 9-9 with 4 minutes to go. And when Radu hit again, but now with just 47 seconds on the clock, the Romanians felt close to victory. Germany held on and got a late extra man when Andrei Busila was excluded with 4 seconds to go. First Erik Bukowski's shot was saved by Romania goalie Dragos Stoenescu. From the following corner throw, Cuk tipped in the ball right on time for the 10-10 score to force a penalty shootout.
Despite the late dissapointment Romania kept their focus and came out as winners. With both back-up goalkeepers brought in for the shootout, two misses by the Germans decided the outcome. First Julian Real's attempt was saved by Marius Tic, followed by Tiberiu Negrean scoring. Then, as Maurice Jüngling stepped up for the possible decider, controversy struck as one of the referees was still correcting the goalkeeper to get on the goalline while the other blew the whistle for the shot, with Jüngling not ready to take it. After consultating each other, it was decided that the German international would get another try. The pressure by then had become too much as Tic saved it again, this time deciding the win for Romania. They will now play for 9th place on Saturday meeting the winner of the match-up France vs. the Netherlands, to be played tomorrow. Germany meanwhile will meet the loser of that match for 11th place.

Greece vs. Italy

The first quarterfinal included winners of group B Italy facing Greece, within 24 hours after their hard-fought 9-8 win over Spain. The Italian women however proved well-trained and ready for this challenge as Greece was held scoreless in a convincing performance in the first half en route to a controlled 4-10 win. Greece top shooter Christina Tsoukala was held to shooting 0 for 6 in a rough encounter while team-mate Alexandra Asimaki remained scoreless on 3 tries. For Italy, shooting 41% as a team, top shooters were captain Tania di Mario and Federica Radicchi who each struck thrice. Now Italy face the winner of Hungary-France int he semifinals already tomorrow.

The Netherlands vs. Germany

Another group winning side was in action in the following match. And after Italy convinced with the win over Greece, the Netherlands trashed Germany 19-2. The Germans, finishing 4th in group B, could only score twice through Claudia Blomenkamp but saw the Netherlands taking it easy in the win, ahead of their semifinal clash with either Russia or Spain on Thursday. Top scorer for the Dutch was Nomi Stomphorst scoring 5 goals.

Hungary vs. France

Opponents for the Italian women in the semifinals will be Hungary. In an expected outcome the Hungarian ladies defeated France 18-6 in Wednesday's third quarterfinal match. After coming out strong Hungary could allow themselves to ease through the second and third period before the score was lifted a bit more in the final session with 5 straight goals. Dora Antal, Orsolya Takacs and Rita Keszthelyi each scored thrice to lead Hungary in the victory. Already on Thursday the semifinals will be played against Italy.

Russia vs. Spain

The second semifinal match-up became known Wednesday afternoon with the last quarterfinal being played. Here, Spain rebounded from their tough loss to Italy for the group B win by knocking off Russia 8-12 overcoming a quiet start. The Russian ladies took a quick 2-0 lead but then were outplayed by the Spanish team. And as top scorer Ekaterina Prokofyeva had to leave with 3 personal fouls already in the 2nd quarter, Russia's chances became smaller and smaller. Meanwhile Spain had found the answer and started to walk away. The Russian women scored twice in the third period but to no avail as the outcome by then looke decided. In the final period goals were exchanged but neither side looked to have the desire to change the direction of the game. Finally when Evgeniia Soboleva converted a penalty shot with 24 seconds remaining, the final score was reached and Spain could play out the clock knowing they are up for an even bigger challenge. In a re-match of the 2014 Europeans gold medal final, then won by Spain, they will face the Netherlands already on Thursday afternoon.

Spain vs. Russia (men)

In the first semifinals for 5th place in the match, played as an appetizer of Wednesday's big semifinal clash Serbia vs. Greece, Spain held off Russia in a tame game 10-9 to now play the winner of Italy-Croatia for 5th place on Saturday. The teams were clearly not in the shape and the mindset of yesterday's quarterfinals. Sloppy defence on either side created opportunities, best converted by Spain who gradually took control in the 2nd period. Russia seemed not able to turn things around but finally did so when the Spanish defence lost focus in the final minutes. It led to Russia scoring three goals in a row, the game's final goals, but the last one came too late as Igor Bychkov hit with just 4 seconds on the clock after a time-out. Spain played out the clock and now meet the winner of Italy-Croatia for 5th place at these European Championships.

2016 European Championships
Belgrade (SRB)

Kombank Arena

Programme and results

Wednesday, January 20:

Malta vs. Slovakia 9-17 (1-4, 2-3, 4-5, 2-5) - men (ranking 13th-16th place) - match 41
Malta scorers: Steven Camilleri 6, Mark Meli, Matthew Zammit, Ben Plumpton.

Slovakia scorers: Martin Famera 5, Lukas Duric 4, Jozef Hrosik 2, Samuel Balaz 2, Martin Kolarik 2, Juraj Zatovic, Maros Tkac.

Romania vs. Germany 14-13 (5-2, 1-1, 0-4, 4-3; penalties: 4-3) - men (ranking 9th-12th place) - match 42
Romania scorers: Tiberiu Negrean 4, Cosmin Radu 3, Nicolae Oanta, Daniel Teohari, Alex Popoviciu.

Germany scorers: Erik Bukowski 3, Mateo Cuk 2, Timo van der Bosch, Julian Real, Paul Schueler, Marko Stamm, Marin Restovic.

Greece vs. Italy 4-10 (0-1, 0-3, 2-2, 2-4) - women (quarterfinal 4) - match 34
Greece scorers: Antigoni Roumpesi 3, Triantafyllia Manolioudaki.

Italy scorers: Federica Radicchi 3, Tania di Mario 3, Arianna Garibotti 2, Roberta Bianconi.

Netherlands vs. Germany 19-2 (8-0, 3-1, 5-0, 3-1) - women (quarterfinal 1) - match 31
Netherlands scorers: Nomi Stomphorst 5, Yasemin Smit 3, Dagmar Genee 2, Sabrina van der Sloot 2, Amargens Genee 2, Lieke Klaassen 2, Marloes Nijhuis, Vivian Sevenich.

Germany scorer: Claudia Blomenkamp.

Hungary vs. France 18-6 (6-1, 5-3, 2-2, 5-0) - women (quarterfinal 3) - match 32
Hungary scorers: Dora Antal 3, Orsolya Takacs 3, Rita Keszthelyi 3, Dora Czigany 2, Barbara Bujka 2, Hanna Kisteleki, Anna Illes, Ildiko Toth, Dora Csabai, Krisztina Garda.

France scorers: Lea Bachelier, Aurore Sacre, Louise Guillet, Marie Barbieux, Marion Tardy, Michaela Jaskova.

Russia vs. Spain 8-12 (2-2, 0-5, 2-1, 4-4) - women (quarterfinal 2) - match 33
Russia scorers: Ekaterina Lisunova 3, Evgeniia Soboleva 2, Ekaterina Tankeeva, Nadezhda Iarondaikina, Eveniya Ivanova.

Spain scorers: Anna Espar 3, Beatriz Ortiz 2, Laura Lopez 2, Jennifer Pareja, Clara Espar, Pilar Peña, Judith Forca, Maica Garcia.

Spain vs. Russia 10-9 (2-1, 4-2, 2-2, 2-4) - men (ranking 5th-8th place) - match 43
Spain scorers: Guillermo Molina 2, Albert Español 2, Alberto Munarriz 2, Marc Minguell, Francisco Fernandez, Blai Mallarach, Gonzalo Echenique.

Russia scorers: Lev Magomaev 3, Igor Bychkov 2, Dmitrii Kholod 2, Alexey Bugaychuk, Sergey Lisunov.

Greece vs. Serbia 7-13 (3-4, 0-2, 1-4, 3-3) - men (semifinal 1) - match 44
Greece scorers: Alexandros Gounas 2, Angelos Vlachopoulos 2, Christos Afroudakis, Evangelos Delakas, Christodoulos Kolomvos.

Serbia scorers: Filip Filipovic 3, Dusko Pijetlovic 3, Dusan Mandic 2, Andrija Prlainovic 2, Milos Cuk, Nikola Jaksic, Stefan Mitrovic.

Thursday, January 21:

09.00: Turkey vs. Georgia - men (ranking 13th-16th place, match 14)
10.30: France vs. Netherlands - men (ranking 9th-12th place, match 16)
12.00: France vs. Greece - women (ranking 5th-8th place, match 36)
13.30: Germany vs. Russia - women (ranking 5th-8th place, match 35)
15.45: Netherlands vs. Spain - women (semifinal 1)
17.15: Hungary vs. Italy - women (semifinal 2)
18.45: Italy vs. Croatia - men (ranking 5th-8th place, match 18)
20.15: Montenegro vs. Hungary - men (semifinal 2)

Friday, January 22:

09.00: Malta vs. L45 - men (15th/16th place classification)
10.30: Slovakia vs. W45 - men (13th/14th place classification)
12.00: Turkey vs. Croatia - women (11th/12th place classification)
13.30: Portugal vs. Serbia - women (9th/10th place classification)
15.45: L35 vs. L36 - women (7th/8th place classification)
17.15: W35 vs. W36 - women (5th/6th place classification)
18.45: L37 vs. L38 - women (3rd/4th place classification)
20.15: W37 vs. W38 - women (1st/2nd place classification)

N.b.: time mentioned is local time.

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