DAY REVIEW: A late winner kept Italy's hopes alive of getting a play-off spot in the next qualification phase for the Men's World Championship 2019, and Portugal routed Cyprus by 31 goals
Italy stun Ukraine while Portugal are off to flying start
Italy caused the biggest upset of the day, beating Ukraine 28:27 in Group 3 of the Men’s World Championship 2019 Qualification Phase 1 on Friday.
Romania earned a fine win over Faroe Islands (28:20) and need only a draw against Ukraine on Saturday to advance.
The Group 2 tournament got underway in Klaipeda with a Latvian win over Georgia (24:21) before hosts Lithuania absolutely dominated against Israel (36:20).
In Group 4 Poland ousted Kosovo (30:19) before Portugal demolished Cyprus by 31 goals (47:16).
Latvia vs Georgia 24:21 (11:12)
Latvia opened their campaign with a hard-fought win over Georgia, which proved to be a very determined and tough opponent.
Georgia kept up with the Latvians in the first half and even grabbed the lead eight seconds before the break (12:11).
Georgia again had their nose in front (21:20) after 53 minutes, but from then on there was only one team on the court.
The Georgians ran out of steam and produced more technical faults, allowing the team around Dainis Kristopans to score four goals in a row and secure an important win to start off.
Latvian left back Aivis Jurdzs led the winners with five goals.
Lithuania vs Israel 36:20 (17:7)
Far more one-sided was the encounter between Lithuania and Israel. The hosts, with more quality in their line-up, heavily defeated Israel.
There was no doubt about the outcome from the beginning. Lithuania were scoring goals easily from all areas of the court, while Israel scored only four times in the opening 25 minutes.
The double-digit lead at half-time (17:7) reflected the flow of play on the court.
Lithuania continued in an impressive way in the second half to secure a high scoring 36:20 win. Motor Zaporozhye centre back Aidenas Malasinskas led the hosts’ score list with nine goals.
Lithuania and Latvia share the lead in the group, while Israel and Georgia need a win on Saturday to stand any chance of progression. Israel will take on Latvia before Georgia play Lithuania.
Faroe Islands vs Romania 20:28 (10:15)
Romania built on their consistent performance against Italy to secure the second group win against the Faroe Islands.
Just like in Thursday’s match against Italy, Romania quickly grabbed the lead, which they held on to until the end of the match.
Their main firepower came from the back court. Faroe Islands did not disappoint, showed their usual fighting spirit but quality-wise could not match the Romanians.
For the Romanian top scorer, Iuliu Alexandru Csepreghi, the last of his eight goals was like the cherry on a sweet cake for the Romanian fans in Bozen, who applauded the 30-year-old left back for his wonderful in-flight goal.
Italy vs Ukraine 29:28 (16:14)
After their opening-day loss, the hosts knew that only a victory would count. And they handled the pressure in an excellent way.
Goalkeeper Domenico Ebner impressed with crucial saves as Italy developed a five-goal lead.
Ukraine pulled the strings at the end of the first half to cut down the Italian lead to two goals at half-time (16:14), but the Italian enthusiasm prevailed in the dramatic second half.
At 28:28, Dean Turkovic scored the winning goal for Italy seven seconds prior to the end, keeping Italy in contest for the play-offs.
Michele Skatar shined on the right back with 11 goals.
Romania top the group with 4 points, Italy and Ukraine are on two, and Faroe Islands with zero has been eliminated.
If Romania get at least a draw against Ukraine, they will be the group winners. Only if Ukraine win, Italy will still have a chance in the final group game against Faroe Islands.
Poland vs Kosovo 30:19 (13:12)
Poland cruised past Kosovo to open Group 4, but only after they overcame fierce resistance in the first half.
Against all odds, Kosovo took an early lead and held on to it for a long time. However, the improved 6-0 defence of Poland slowed them down towards the end of the first half.
After the break, Piotr Przybecki men finally converted their potential into goals. Kosovo produced far too many technical faults, and they could not keep up physically with Poland. Also, their attack was not effective enough.
Poland won the second half by 10 goals to wrap up the 30:19 victory.
Portugal vs Cyprus 47:16 (22:7)
The host nation outplayed Cyprus from the very start. Portugal built on their 15 goal-lead at the break to record one of their biggest ever wins.
Portugal were better in all aspects of the game, scoring one goal after another. 47:16 is the highest win in this qualifying campaign so far as no other team scored more than 40 goals in a single match or won by a larger margin than 31.
Poland and Portugal share pole position with two points and seem heading toward an all-decisive match on Sunday. But first, Portugal play Kosovo and Poland meet Cyprus on Saturday.
TEXT: Tomas Cuncik / ew
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