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Germany tame the Russian bear in a thrilling game

REVIEW: Germany's hard-earned 30:29 win against Russia in the main round puts a huge dent in Russia's hopes to reach the Olympic qualification and lets Germany move one step closer to the semi-final

Photo: Sascha Klahn

Germany's fourth straight win at this EHF EURO has opened the doors to the semi-final for the team of head coach Dagur Sigurdsson.

Following a hotly contested 30:29 (17:16) victory against Russia on Sunday, Germany top Main Round Group 2 in Wroclaw with 6 points.

Dmitrii Zhitnikov missed the last shot of the game and made Germany jump of joy.

It was the second time within two days that Russia had an unlucky end to their game. On Friday they allowed a two-goal lead against Sweden to slip from their hands, and were left with just one point in their 28:28 draw.

Against Germany they had the chance to draw but were eventually left empty-handed.

Best scorers in this roller coaster ride-like game were Timur Dibirov (Russia) and Christian Dissinger (Germany) with seven goals each.

“The defence and goalkeeper finally decided the fight. We have shown a great spirit, and I was happy to see that Carsten Lichtlein is back. We are not depending on just one or two players, but have a wide squad," said Dagur Sigurdsson after the match.

The match was the duel of the – on average – youngest and oldest team at this EHF EURO, and at the beginning the 'old' Russian clearly dominated.

The team's line players Mikhail Chipurin and Alexandr Chernoivanov scored at will and Russia forged ahead to first 3:0 and then 7:4 by the 8th minute.

Compared to their previous performances at this tournament, Germany were weaker in defence and they were not able to stop the Russian attack in the first 20 minutes.

But when goalkeeper Andreas Wolff improved and the defence made the dynamic Russian back court axis come to a halt, the match turned in favour of Germany and led for the first time at 11:10.

The problems were now with the Russian defence, and many a time Germany's left backs Steffen Fäth and Christian Dissinger broke through and scored.

Russia refused to roll over though and courtesy of some spectacular goals of team captain Timur Dibirov, they trailed Germany by just goal (17:16) at the break.

In the second half it was Dissinger's time to shine. He scored his seventh goal in the 39th minute for 22:19 and his assist to teammate Rune Dahmke 30 seconds later was the key for the first four-goal goal for Germany at 24:19.

With Germany scoring again soon after, Russian coach Dimitri Torgovanov needed to react, took a timeout and changed the line-up of his team.

But nothing changed immediately. Dibirov missed two shots during a one-man advantage and with Germany leading 25:20 Russia already seemed to lack power and concentration to bounce back one more time.

But having the dream of the Olympic Qualification Tournaments in their minds, the 'Russian bear' did not surrender so early.

Nine minutes before the end, when Valentin Buzmakov scored his first goal for 25:26, everything was open again.

German coach Dagur Sigurdsson took his timeout, but the Russians equalised at 26:26.

What then started was a thrilling finish to the game: Four minutes before the buzzer Germany again were ahead 29:27, but nothing was decided.

Both coaches took timeouts once more in the dying minutes. 45 seconds before the end, Pawel Atman scored for 29:30, then Germany lost the ball in attack – but Zhitnikov's last shot missed the goal.

Germany's goalkeeper Carsten Lichtlein saw it this way. “He (Germany's second goalie Andreas Wolff) said 'just do one save and we win'... I didn't do the save, but I'm happy the ball went over the goal so we won!”

written by Björn Pazen / ts