A close match between Hungary and Russia to open group E at the Men’s EHF EURO 2020 ended with Hungary earning a 26:25 victory, thanks to a save from keeper Roland Mikler with seconds on the clock.
The greatest distance in the match was four goals for Hungary early in the second half, before Russia fought back for a thrilling finish to entertain the full hall of spectators in Malmö Arena.
- Hungary open with a narrow victory that sees them earn their first ever EHF EURO win against Russia
- saves from Hungary goalkeeper Roland Mikler in critical moments prove the key factor and earn him the Grundfos Player of the Match award
- Russia hit 2,000 EHF EURO goals with their 16th in the match – a breakthrough goal scored by Sergei Mark Kosorotov
Hungary vs Russia 26:25 (14:13)
It was Hungary goalkeeper Roland Mikler who was ultimately the key to the win. His save tally of eight was not incredibly high, but he rose to the occasion in the right moments, including off an open shot for Russia wing Timur Dibirov with seconds remaining to decide the game.
After Hungary moved ahead by four goals in the opening of the second period, three consecutive strikes saw Russia come back within one, before a penalty save from Mikler in the 42nd minute halted the comeback. Hungary pulled ahead to a promising lead, but Russia fought back once more, and with the score at 26:25 with 24 seconds remaining, nothing was decided until Mikler stopped Dibirov’s attempt.
With the help of Mikler’s saves, Hungary opened the first two-goal distance in the match just after the 10-minute mark, 6:4. Although Hungary held a one-goal advantage at half-time, the first 30 minutes saw Russia take their turn in front, but the difference was never greater than two.
Russia’s first five goals came from nine-metre shots, with left back Dmitrii Santalov particularly important as he contributed five strikes in the opening half, including the fastest goal shot for his team at 131 km/h. When Russia found the gaps to shoot from outside, Hungary’s defence had little answer, while at the other end of the court, Russia forced their opponents to look for more creative options – but that suited Hungary and their goals rained in from all positions.
After Russia took a two-goal lead, 11:9, in the 24th minute, changes to Hungary’s line-up helped swing the momentum their way in time for the half-time break. After half-time, although Russia came close, Hungary never let them claim the advantage.
Hungarian line player Bence Banhidi described the game as "really tough".
"We played so good in defence, but in attack we had a lot of loose balls. It was like a rollercoaster in the game, because we were leading by three, four goals and after they came back, so it was a game like this.
"But I think the most important is the two points, and for the future it’s so good – our defence – and I hope we will play in the future like this, in every game," he added.
— EHF EURO (@EHFEURO) January 11, 2020