Austria got off to a dream start at the EHF EURO 2020 as an inspired performance from captain Nikola Bilyk helped the co-hosts come from behind to beat the Czech Republic in Vienna.
In a memorable second half, the THW Kiel left back’s 12 goals, together with the excellent goalkeeping of Austria’s Thomas Eichberger ensured Ales Pajovic’s side got their EHF EURO 2020 campaign off to a winning one.
- Austria’s player of the match Bilyk hit 12 goals out of 13 shots (93 %)
- Eichberger in the Austrian goal raked up nine saves and finished with the 36 % efficiency
- both Janko Bozovic for Austria and the best scorer of the EHF EURO 2018 Ondrej Zdrahala surpassed the milestone of 400 international goals
GROUP B – Vienna
Czech Republic vs Austria 29:32 (13:12)
In front an expectant Stadthalle arena crowd in Vienna, co-hosts Austria opened up an early two-goal with the dangerous left arm of Janko Bozovic, on his 150th appearance, causing the visitors defence problems.
Austria continued to enjoy a lead of two goals thanks to the efforts of captain Nikola Bilyk, who struck three goals in the space of seven minutes. However, as the first half wore on, a combination of wayward finishing and two-minute suspensions from Austria enabled the visitors to lead at the break 14:13.
In what would be a helter-skelter second period, Austria had goalkeeper Thomas Eichberger to thank for a series of vital saves – and they paved the way for the hosts to turn the deficit around.
Bilyk was again at the fore with three goals in the space of two minutes to put Austria in control only for Czech goalkeeper Martin Galia to deny the hosts and enable his side to level at 17-17.
But it was proving to be the Eichberger and Bilyk show as the Austrian keeper’s reflexes – including a tremendous double save – and the sharp shooting of the THW Kiel left back helped give Ales Pajovic’s side a three-goal lead.
While the Czechs threatened a comeback, a potentially nervy final few minutes for the Austrians was put to bed when a three-goal lead was restored once more and the hosts could celebrate victory in front of their home fans.
— EHF EURO (@EHFEURO) January 10, 2020
Austria's coach Ales Pajovic said the match was not been perfect, but said the loud support of the Vienna fans had helped.
“It was a really hard game, it was a fight for 60 minutes. We had a lot of problems in defence, with one-versus-one with a lot of two-minute suspensions. In the second half I said to the players we have only 30 minutes left, and when you play in such a hall with so many fans, we have to play better.
"We got better and became more aggressive, with more shots from outside, and our goalkeeper was really good," he added.