MATCH REVIEW – In a dramatic finish, Montenegro kept their chance of a semifinal appearance alive, while Serbia wasted their last opportunity of reaching the “final four”, as one goal separated the two teams in the late game, on Monday night.
By Peter Bruun
Main Round Group I
Serbia vs Montenegro 27:28 (15:12)
Before the Match
*Despite sitting on two points only, Serbia could determine their own fate. Two victories in their last two main round matches – against Montenegro andFrance – would send them to the semifinal from a second place, in Group 1.
*Montenegro had to succeed in their remaining two games (Serbia and Denmark) but would still rely on some 3rd party help.
*Serbia had only had 25 hours of rest after their 29:25 defeat to Russia, on Sunday evening, while Montenegro came off a two day break.
Serbia were well on their way to decide the match in their favor, as they took a four-goal lead towards half time, but a fine Montenegrin comeback, aided by several technical errors of Lekic & Co., turned the game.
The match began at a fast pace and Montenegro had the better start, enjoying several two-goal leads, while getting up 6:3.
However, Serbia came back (9:9), and after 18 minutes, line player, Sladjana Pop-Lazic, made it 11:10.
It all happened just seconds before Serbia’s goalkeeper, Katarina Tomasevic, had to be carried off the court with what looked like a serious knee injury, after colliding with Montenegro´s, Jovanka Radicevic.
However, the incident did not affect players from Serbia mentally – Marija Coli did a solid job between the goalposts – as the rest of the half belonged to Serbia. Or better said to Katarina Krpez-Slezak.
With eight goals on nine attempts, the right wing was responsible for more than half of her team´s goals in the first half. And, it helped Serbia to built their lead via 9:10 to 14:10 to 15:11, before Montenegro´s, Durdina Jaukovic, scored last before the break.
Serbia continued where they left off, maintaining a three-goal lead, but not for long.
For one, Krpez Sezak did not get as many balls to work with and courtesy of several Serbian turnovers, Montenegro clawed their way back into the game.
Milena Raicevic, Durdina Jaukovic and the two wingers, Jovanka Radicevic and Maida Mehmedovic, inflicted most of the damage, as the Montenegrins caught up at 19:19, midway through the half. And, it was Radicevic as well who brought her team back into the lead (24:23).
At 28:25, with less than two and a half minutes left to play, it looked like game over, yet two quick goals from Serbia set up an exciting finish, where Lekic & Co. had possession of the ball but could not get into a scoring position, anymore.
What They Said
Maida Mehmedovic – Montenegro
“In the end, we were the better team because we continued to fight for each other, all the way.
“The last few minutes in the first half were definitely not good, but towards the end of the match, we played the way we know we can.
“Now, I only hope we can win against Denmark, who I respect very much. Although, they probably played their worst game of the tournament against Russia, tonight.
“I am sure that it will be a tough a match as well, and I am happy that we’ll only have one day off before we’ll return to the pitch. I don´t like to long breaks between games.”
Dragan Cvijic – Serbia
“Of course, I am very disappointed – we deserved the win more than Montenegro, but that’s sport.
“However, I am happy that we fought until the very end, and we were close to catching up with a three-goal deficit.
“We still hope to win against France, as we can have a say, which team will reach the semifinal, and we will certainly go for it.”
Montenegro may still hope for the semifinals, but they don’t only need a win against Denmark, in their last main round match, on Wednesday. They also require Serbia to beat France, to make the trip to Paris become a reality.
In contrast, Serbia still have a – theoretical – chance to play for fifth place, but at a minimum it will take a victory against the French host, to achieve it. A tall order towards the end of the competition.