18 saves from Perez de Vargas set Spain on fire

GROUP II REVIEW: The Macedonians are hit hard by a tough 20:31 defeat against the EHF EURO 2016 silver medallists and an injury to sharpshooter Kiril Lazarov

Gonzalo Perez de Vargas made 18 saves against FYR Macedonia, leading Spain to a decisive win in their opening main round match. Photo: Sasa Pahic Szabo

The clash of the winners of EHF EURO 2018 Preliminary Round Groups C and D was decided by half-time: After an incredible start, Spain defeated FYR Macedonia in an unexpectedly dominant way. The player of the match was goalkeeper Gonzalo Perez de Vargas, who saved 18 shots from the Macedonians. FYR Macedonia did not only lose the game 20:31 (6:15), but also Kiril Lazarov due to an injury.

"It was bad. Everything went wrog, we had a terrible start of the match then Kiro (Lazarov) got injured and it was all gone," Macedonian line player Stojanche Stoilov said.

After the second match day for main round Group II, Denmark top the ranking with six points, ahead of Spain and Germany, both on four. The Macedonians, for whom the loss to Spain was the first defeat at the EHF EURO 2018, have three points in their account.

"No game is ever easy and we didn't expect this much advantage at the beginning. We were a bit nervous before the game because we knew we have to win if we want to continue in this competition so we were prepared to fight to the end," Viran Morros said.

The Group C winners fell well behind the EHF EURO 2016 silver medallists in the first 30 minutes. As Perez de Vargas had an impressive first half, saving 62 per cent of Macedonia’s shots, he destroyed the Balkan side’s chances quite early. At the 10-minute mark, the score was 6:1, before an intermediate strong period enabled the Macedonians to reduce the gap to 4:7. But then they were shocked again, as their leader and mastermind Kiril Lazarov had to leave the court with a thigh injury in minute 17 – after which the disaster really began.

Even though goalkeeper Borko Ristovski, Perez de Vargas’ teammate at FC Barcelona, saved seven shots, his side were punished by the Spaniards, who easily quietened an Arena Varazdin full of Macedonian fans. Thanks to seven unanswered goals, the 2013 world champions decided the match as early as minute 30, when they led by a double-figured result of 15:5.

As Stojanche Stoilov netted with the half-time buzzer, the Macedonians avoided being among the eight teams that scored five goals or less in 30 minutes of a Men’s EHF EURO match. But still, their six goals was the lowest half-time result at the EHF EURO 2018, after Sweden scored eight against Iceland (8:15) and France (8:10).

FYR Macedonia’s Spanish Raul Gonzalez tried everything, but no measure was good enough to reduce the gap significantly. Though goalkeeper Nikola Mitrevski, who replaced Ristovski after the break, made some spectacular shots, the margin intermediately rose as high as 13 goals.

Backed by the return of line player Julen Aguinagalde, on the court again after a back injury, Spain had no trouble at all opening the main round victorious. Overall, ‘Los Hispanos’ took their sixth victory in what was their sixth match against the Macedonians. Their top scorer was Eduardo Gurbindo with six goals, while Stoilov and Dejan Manaskov netted four times for the Macedonians.

written by Björn Pazen / cg