Saldatsenka steers Belarus to opening win

GROUP A REVIEW: Vyachaslau Saldatsenka’s saves propelled Belarus to an opening victory against Serbia

Viachaslau Saldatsenka was key to Belarus's winning start to the EHF EURO 2020. Photo © Jozo Cabraja / kolektiff

Belarus made a big step towards the main round, beating Serbia by five goals in their opener.

  • just like at the EHF EURO 2018, Belarus opened the competition with a win
  • Belarus’ Artsem Karalek was the best scorer of the match, netting nine times
  • his teammate Vyachaslau Saldatsenka made 10 saves, including three penalty shots
  • Bogdan Radivojevic was Serbia’s top scorer with six goals


Belarus vs Serbia 35:30 (16:15)

Belarus’ head coach Iouri Chevtsov has a goalkeeping dilemma as he has to choose between Ivan Matskevich and Viachaslau Saldatsenka.

Saldatsenka was among the top 10 goalkeepers by save percentage in the two previous EHF EURO tournaments in 2016 and 2018. However, he is not always stable, so many expected Chevtsov to rely on Matskevich this time.

However, the coach picked Saldatsenka for the opening game, and it was a good decision. The CSM Bacau player made 10 saves, including three penalty shots, and had a 29 per cent save rate, earning him the player of the match award.

Another key player for Belarus was Artsem Karalek, as the line player from PGE Vive Kielce scored nine goals from 10 attempts.

Both teams did better in attack than defence early in the match, which resulted in 13 goals during the 10 opening minutes as Belarus led 7:6.

A few minutes later, the Belarusians increased their advantage to 10:6, yet Serbia did not give up. The Balkan side capitalised on their rivals’ multiple suspensions and defensive mistakes to draw level at 13:13, although Belarus led 16:15 at the break.

Early in the second half, Serbia drew level at 18:18, but it was the only time after the break when Belarus were not in the lead.

Thanks to Saldatsenka’s saves and free-flowing attack, Chevtsov’s team started to pull clear and ultimately cruised to a five-goal victory.

 After the match, line player Artsem Karalek said his team had not believed in their defence enough at the start.

"When we started to believe in it, we won by five goals. In the next matches, we have to believe in our defence for 60 minutes," Karalek said.

Serbia coach Nenad Perunicic was brutal in his assessment of the performance.

"I think we played like cowards, we were not a team, we didn’t believe we could make a comeback," he said. "I’m taking full responsibility, it’s obvious I didn’t prepare my team well, especially mentally.”

written by Sergey Nikolaev / jh