Kristopans gala not enough to elbow Spain aside

GROUP C REVIEW: Defending champions Spain beat EHF EURO debutants Latvia in their opener despite two red cards for their defence stars

Dainis Kristopans helped Latvia put up a solid fight against EHF EURO 2018 champions Spain. Photo © Stanko Gruden / kolektiff

As in the Group C opener in Trondheim between Germany and the Netherlands, EHF EURO debutants Latvia stood strong for a quite long time against Spain.

However, after Germany’s 34:23 win against the Netherlands, defending champions Spain finally took a 33:22 victory against Latvia despite giant Dainis Kristopans’ best efforts.

  • Dainis Kristopans was top scorer of the match with seven goals and was awarded player of the match
  • all Spanish court players and even goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas were on the scorer list
  • Spaniards Jorge Maqueda and Viran Morros were both handed red cards after video replays
  • it was the fifth Spanish victory against Latvia in the fifth match in history

Spain vs Latvia 33:22 (14:11)

Backed by eight saves from goalkeeper Edgars Kuksa and five hammer shot goals from player of the match Dainis Kristopans in the first 30 minutes, debutants Latvia managed to stand strong against the defending champions.

Surprisingly, the Baltic side led by 3:0, before the Spanish defence and goalkeeper Rodrigo Corrales improved and turned the tide at 5:4.

For some minutes the Spaniards were in a state of shock after a direct red card against Jorge Maqueda after a foul against Nils Kreicbergs in the 24th minute. But thanks to wing Ferran Sole – his team’s top scorer with four strikes – Spain extended the advance to 14:10, before Uvis Strazdins netted in the best goal of the match with the half-time buzzer.

Right after the break, the next Spaniard was sent off by a direct red card. Defence boss Viran Morros, who had touched Kristopans in the face, was disqualified in his 40th EHF EURO match. Spain needed to change their defence tactics, and Latvia remained on a quite equal level, but were too far away to truly endanger the defending champions.

The Baltic side caused too many turnovers, which then were converted into easy goals by the Spanish counter-attack specialists. The defending champions forged ahead with a series of seven unanswered goals to a decisive 25:16 lead 10 minutes before the end, and then could save some power for the crucial game against Germany on Saturday.

Spain played tribute to their opponents' performance after the match, with head coach Jordi Ribera admitting that Kristopans made his team struggle.

"A first match at any tournament is difficult to play. And Latvia caused many difficulties to us before the break. But thanks to a great defence and goalkeeping we took those points," added left wing Angel Fernandez, saying that Saturday's match against Germany will be almost a final.

Latvia coach Armands Uscins said: "I am happy that we could play our first ever EHF EURO match against a team like Spain. We started well, our goalkeeper saved brilliantly, but then Spain punished all of our mistakes. But still I am happy how we fought."

written by Björn Pazen / jh