Domagoj Duvnjak won the battle against THW Kiel teammate Nikola Bilyk as Croatia made it four wins out of four at EHF EURO 2020 to start the main round with a five-goal victory over Austria.
Luka Cindric stole the show for the two-time EHF EURO runners-up, as his five goals and eight assists help sweep Croatia to victory.
The Croatians led by five goals at the break but Bilyk, who founded the net three times from four attempts, could not spark a rivalry as the hosts were made to pay for a poor first half in front of goal.
- Player of the match Luka Stepancic scores four times
- Austrian right wing Robert Weber top scores in the match with seven goals
- Hosts’ Daniel Dicker scores the last and fastest (138 km/h) goal of the match
- Croatia have now won all seven meetings between the two nations
- Nikola Bilyk’s second goal was his 300th for Austria
Croatia vs Austria 27:23 (13:8)
Both teams came into their first main round match protecting 100 per cent records but it was Croatia, who had won all of their previous six meetings between the nations, who began stronger.
Ales Pajovic’s Austria started well, at one point leading by two goals, but the Croatians, the two-time EHF EURO runners-up, stormed back and soon took control thanks to some individual brilliance from centre back Luka Cindric.
Both sides were guilty of missing decent chances in the opening half hour, with the woodwork rattled eight times.
Austria’s wastefulness in front of goal (40 per cent at half-time) handed Lino Cervar’s side the initiative and thanks to four goals from the impressive Cindric, Croatia opened up a five-goal advantage by the break.
There was nothing home goalkeeper Thomas Eichberger, Austria’s hero in their final preliminary round match, could do to prevent Croatia from maintaining a comfortable lead in the second half.
— EHF EURO (@EHFEURO) January 16, 2020
When the home side did have a chance they found Croatia’s goalkeeper Marin Sego in fine form but in the end, player of the match Luka Stepancic helped his side to overcome Austria, whose problem in front of goal in the opening period eventually proved costly.
Even though the hosts were well-beaten by the end they did have the final word when Daniel Dicker hammered a 138 km/h effort into the top corner to give their fans something to cheer.
Croatia coach Cervar said he thought his team had played better in the first half, largely due to the success of their 5-1 defence tactic.
"In the second half, the defence did not play that well and in attack we played too individual. I am satisfied with the two points, but we have to play better in the next match against Germany," Cervar added.
Austria's Pajovic admitted they had struggled under the pressure from Croatia, adding: "They are definitely a candidate for going all the way at this championship."