Montenegro end Sweden’s hopes and send Spain to semi-finals
11 Dec. 2019
After a close match and a thrilling finish, Montenegro secured a victory over Sweden to end their main round campaign at the 24th IHF Women’s World Championship. The win not only took Montenegro to third place on the Group II table, but ensured Spain ranked second, which meant Spain followed Russia to the semi-finals.
In the semi-finals on Friday, Spain will meet the first-ranked team from Group I, Norway, while Russia will play the Netherlands.
Montenegro vs Sweden 26:23 (12:12)
Sweden took the court with a chance to reach the semi-finals for the second consecutive time, while Montenegro were fighting for the highest possible ranking on the table. Both sides were highly motivated, and the result was an exciting match to wrap up the main round for Group II.
After Montenegro had a stronger start, Sweden drew level with a tricky ground shot from Isabelle Gullden, 3:3 in the sixth minute. Sweden goalkeeper Filippa Idehn was in great form, clearly winning the contest between the posts early on, with a 40% rate through the opening. As Sweden’s attack found trouble against Montenegro’s strong 6-0 defence, the Scandinavian side’s coach, Henrik Signell, brought on Jamina Roberts as a faster alternative to Mikaela Massing on left back.
Signell’s choice was rewarded, as after 15 minutes, Sweden had pulled in front, 8:6, and Montenegro coach Per Johansson changed his keeper to Marta Batinovic. Batinovic had a strong impact, with several crucial saves that created the chance for her team to draw level. It took some time however, and Sweden moved in front as clear as three goals, 10:7 in the 21st minute, before Montenegro fought back to equalise in the final minutes of the half.
In the opening minutes of the second period, Sweden saw their chances begin to slip away. Five minutes into the half, Montenegro had the edge at 15:13, and they maintained that two-goal distance when Batinovic saved her second penalty to keep a perfect record from the seven-metre line in the 42nd.
With 15 minutes remaining, Batinovic was causing immense trouble for Sweden, as she recorded a 47% save rate with seven saves – and Montenegro profited off her work to create a three-goal gap, 19:16. Sweden continued fighting hard, but their semi-final chances were slipping away. With five minutes to play, Montenegro reached a four-goal lead, 23:19.
But the Scandinavian side’s stronger motivation, with the chance to play for the medals, helped them reduce the gap once again. With saves from Idehn and counter-attack goals, they fought back within two, and with two minutes remaining, the score board showed 24:22.
Another critical save from Idehn gave Sweden the chance, and a perfect pass to Nathalie Hagman opened the door for the Scandinavian side to reduce the gap to one – but Hagman’s shot was saved by Batinovic. From there, Montenegro reopened the score line, and Sweden’s hopes ended.
hummel Player of the Match: Majda Mehmedovic, Montenegro