Croatia overcome first-half deficit to win Balkan derby

GROUP A REVIEW: A strong second-half performance helped Croatia to beat Montenegro in the Balkan derby

Luka Cindric was a stand-out player for Croatia as they dashed Montenegro's hopes in their EHF EURO opener. Photo © Jozo Cabraja / kolektiff

Despite facing some problems in the first half, Croatia improved after the break and opened the EHF EURO 2020 with a well-deserved win.

  • Luka Cindric was Croatia’s top scorer with six goals
  • Nemanja Grbovic netted six times for Montenegro
  • Croatia will take on Belarus in the group leaders’ match on Saturday
  • on the same day, Montenegro will face Serbia in another Balkan derby

Croatia vs Montenegro 27:21 (12:13)

A rock-solid defence in the second half was the key for Croatia’s success. Domagoj Duvnjak, who became player of the match, did a good job, while Marin Sego made a few spectacular saves in goal.

After the break, Croatia conceded only eight goals, and notably just four before the 50th minute, which helped them to build on a solid advantage.

Despite vocal support from their numerous fans, it took Lino Cervar’s team quite a long time to find their game. Although leading for much of the first half, they struggled to create a solid gap.

Montenegro fought extremely hard and seized the initiative before the break. Led by Vladan Lipovina in attack, they enjoyed a 4:0 run to take a 13:11 lead before Croatia’s Marino Maric slashed the gap to one goal just before the break.

Yet Cervar probably found the right words in the dressing room, and his team totally dominated in the second half. The defence worked well, Luka Cindric and other attackers scored from all angles, and ultimately Croatia claimed well-deserved two points and topped the group on goal difference.

 Croatia coach Lino Cervar said his team deserved to win, but need to improve for the next match against Serbia on Saturday.

 Montenegro goalkeeper Nebojsa Simic praised the performance of the player of the match Duvnjak, saying: “Eight goals in the second half is too few. Domagoj Duvnjak played really well in defence, his individual qualities forced us to make mistakes which resulted in their fast breaks. They turned the game around, and after that it was a simple cat-and-mouse game.”

written by Sergey Nikolaev / jh