The dream of lifting the European championship trophy for the first time in history came one step closer to becoming reality for ‘Los Hispanos’, as they secure their fifth EHF Euro semi-final berth in a 20-year long history of the competition.Spanish team was very convincing in this match, regardless that it meant nothing for KirilLazarov and his teammates, having already lost all their hopes of progressing further in the championship after the loss against Iceland. The European Championship’s best scorer was forced to watch the game with a grim look on his face, as he was in the Jyske Bank Boxen arena, but couldn’t help his team due to a finger injury.
Macedonia did just enough to keep themselves in the match during the first half (12:15), but the he second half of the match saw them sinking without a trace as the World champions extend their lead to a comfortable 10-goal difference before winning 22:33 in the end.
The match started unexpectedly well for Macedonians after Manaskov scored the first goal of the match, capitalizing on a turnover from Maqueda. After Gerogievskileveled the score in 5th minute of the match, it resulted in a 10-minute period of the game in which the score was drawn, with nothing to separate the two sides. Mid-way through the second half came two goals from Tomas and a penalty from Canellas (Player of the match for Spain with 6/6) to give Spain their first substantial lead in the match at 7:10, with 11 minutes to play. The world-class line player JulenAguinagaldehad shown he is well rested and completely recovered from the injury which kept him sidelined for most of the championship. The Vive Targi Kielce pivot scored his second goal of the match, assisted by Gurbindo to see Spain take a five-goal lead in the last 10 minutes of the first half. Mirkulovski(Player of the match for Macedonia with 7/10) and the long awaited reinforcement middle-back, Nemanja Pribak scored in the dying minutes of the half as Macedonia come to a manageable 3-goal difference at half time, with 12:15 the score.
The second half started with a 3:0 series, crowned by Ugalde’s fast-break goal in the first 5 minutes. After a breakthrough from Pribak, Spain goals continued to pile-up as Aguinagalde came from the bench to score his 3rd, with Rocas sealing yet another 3:0 series for Spain in the first 10 minutes of the half.Mid-way through the half it was slowly becoming clear that Macedonian chances in this match are getting smaller by a minutes, as the difference stood at 7 goal in favor of the World Champions. It was a nice but meaningless shot exchange from wingers Ugalde and Mirkulovski that marked the period until the last 10 minutes of the game. A goal from Victor Tomas came with 8 minutes to play to make all Macedonian hopes of leaving the championship with a shout disappear. Valero Rivera, saw Spain with a comfortable 10-goal lead with five minutes to play, with time-out from the Macedonian bench served only to cushion the blow of loosing with a double-digit margin. Spanish finishing was ruthless in the dying minutes of the match as Garcia and Tomas struck Macedonia with fast-break goals to secure the double-digit lead. FilipMirkulovski, who’s had a great game but one he would rather forget, set the final score to 22:33 with no more than a consolation goal in the last minute of the match.
Spain will now join the likes of France, and the hosts Denmark in the semi-final, with the last semi final berth yet to be decided in a direct duel between Poland and Croatia this evening. This result also means that Iceland’s semi-final hopes go up in smoke, as ‘The Vikings’ fell short of being a top-4 team in this championship, regardless of their result against Denmark later this evening.
TEXT: NEMANJA SAVIC