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Date: 4/8/2016
 

Day one of competition at Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament III saw Norway’s triumphant return to the court after their blinding success at the European championship earlier this year. The Scandinavian team recorded a six-goal win against Bahrain to begin the competition in Herning on Friday. 

In the second match of the evening Denmark took an important step towards Rio 2016 with a 28:24 win after a physical 60 minutes against Croatia.

Jyske Bank BOXEN, Herning
Norway vs Bahrain 35:29 (16:15)

The Norwegians pleased their many fans in Jyske Bank BOXEN by opening the tournament in Herning with a clear win. However, they had to work harder than they may have expected against a Bahrain team who managed to keep the game close until the middle of the second half.

From the start, Bahrain confused the Norwegian attack with their aggressive defence, which alternated between 3-2-1 and 3-3 systems. This enabled Bahrain to create an early 5:2 lead, but it did not take Norway long to find solutions against their opponents’ defence and reclaim the advantage at 6:5.

After Norway solved their scoring problems they pulled ahead by three goals at 9:6, but a time-out at that point seemed to help Bahrain, who caught up and kept pace with their opponents through to half-time when only one goal separated the teams.

Bahrain stayed with Norway from the beginning of the second half, even claiming a one-goal advantage on more than one occasion. Eight minutes into the half the score was still even at 21:21, and it was not until the last 10 minutes that Norway created the match-deciding lead when they began to capitalise on their scoring opportunities better than they had been for the first 45-50 minutes.

As the Norwegians minimised their mistakes at both ends of the court, Bahrian were forced to let go of the grip they had for so long as their opponents sprinted to a seven-goal lead before winning the game by six at the final whistle. 

Denmark vs Croatia 28:24 (11:9)

Denmark back Mads Christiansen and defensive specialist Henrik Møllgaard had been bothered by illness in the lead-up up to Friday’s match, but both were reported fit for the opening battle. Croatia took to the court missing Mirko Alilovic, as the Veszprem goalkeeper reports he does not feel mentally ready for the national team at the moment.

Instead, the EHF EURO 2016 bronze medalists’ goalkeeping duo was formed by Zagreb pair Ivan Stevanovic and Ivan Pesic.

From the start it was a physical match focused on two strong, well-prepared defensive systems. The Croatians practiced their usual 5-1 defence with Domagoj Duvnjak pushing forward, which created big problems for the Danish attack. Goalkeeper Stevanovic, who had a particular grip on the Danish wings, added to the hosts’ troubles, but Croatia had their own difficulties scoring. 

On occasions where Denmark’s Niklas Landin failed to save their shots the Croatians were particularly unlucky when it came to hitting the woodwork. All of this resulted in a low-scoring first half, at the end of which the Danes had a slight upper hand. 

The frequency of goals increased considerably in the second half, as Croatia playmaker Luka Cindric picked his way through the Danish defence and Kasper Søndergaard helped make the home side’s attack more dangerous from his position at right back. 

For a while the Danes were considerably more successful at scoring goals, as they pulled ahead by six at 22:16 and 23:17. However, Croatia’s change of defence from 5-1 to 6-0 disturbed the Danish attack, and the visitors created new doubt about the result with five goals in succession that closed the score line. 

But as the clock ticked down Denmark proved the better team, as they increased the distance to four goals by the buzzer. Denmark and Norway now top the group table with two points each, while Croatia and Bahrain remain on zero. 

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