Co-hosts Austria took a giant step towards qualifying for the main round with a gutsy win over a resolute Ukraine.
The game was evenly poised as it entered the final five minutes but, helped by player of the match Janko Bozovic’s seven goals, Austria raced away in the closing stages to make it back-to-back wins to top group B.
A point against North Macedonia in their final group B game will be enough for Ales Pajovic’s side to make the next stage, while Ukraine will need to beat Czech Republic on Tuesday to stand a chance.
- victory for Austria means they need one point to qualify for the main round
- Ukraine have now lost 10 successive matches an EHF EURO competitions
- player of the match Janko Bozovic scored seven times
- Austrian right wing Robert Weber scored with all eight of his shots on goal
Austria vs Ukraine 34:30 (18:17)
Austria knew they could not book a spot in the main round already on Sunday after the Czech Republic’s earlier win over North Macedonia – but that result gave Ukraine plenty of incentive to bounce back after their opening defeat on Friday.
The first half saw both sides trade narrow leads, with Ukraine punishing Austria’s 72 per cent shot efficiency with a number of well-crafted goals.
But despite a sluggish first half, Ales Pajovic’s side went in at the interval with a slender advantage thanks to five goals apiece from Robert Weber – whose every shot found the target – and captain Nikola Bilyk.
Right wing Weber and THW Kiel star Bilyk continued to torment the Ukrainian defence early in the second half but the visiting team refused to lie down and Sergii Bebeshko’s side briefly took the lead to silence the Wiener Stadthalle crowd.
The game remained wide open with the last five minutes to play with both sides guilty of missing decent chances to gain an advantage.
As time ticked down, Ukraine sensed that victory was there for the taking with the scores level – but Austria found another gear in the closing stages.
The hosts notched four goals in a row to build up an unassailable lead and with no way back for Ukraine after that, Austria could celebrate their second successive win in front of their fans.
— EHF EURO (@EHFEURO) January 12, 2020
Austria's coach Ales Pajovic found it tough to express how he felt after the match.
“It’s hard to say a few words after this game because the emotions are still working inside me. We were against seven players for the whole game, it’s really not easy to do and it takes energy for my players. We were plus and minus one goal for 50 minutes and in the end I have to say we had a little bit more in defence, winning two or three balls," he said.