Appelgren’s brilliance puts Sweden past Serbia

GROUP A REVIEW: An impressive 19-save game from Mikael Appelgren helped Sweden take their first win in the EHF EURO 2018 after beating Serbia 30:25

Swedish hero of the day Mikael Applegren - 19 saves and 44 % saving efficiency. Photo: Uros Hocevar

It was an action-packed game for Sweden, but the Nordic side prevailed against Serbia, 30:25, backed by a consistent performance from Mikael Appelgren and a relentless attack. On their course to winning the game, Sweden also scored their 2,000th goal in the EHF EURO.

A rusty start against Iceland was one of the biggest reasons why Sweden lost their maiden game at the EHF EURO.

"It was a real struggle. in the second half they started to play different defence, we made some easy mistakes, they got some counterattacks and scored goals but in the end we won and we are satisfied with the whole team and with our performance," said Swedish winger Niclas Ekberg.

The need to correct their woes was underlined by coach Kristjan Andresson immediately after that game and was put across in the next game against Serbia.

A quick 7:3 lead to start the game for Sweden after only seven minutes saw Serbia heading into trouble, as their defence shapeshifted for almost every Nordic attack.

Serbia had little to offer in attack, with their star right back Marko Vujin out due to a hamstring injury, and tried to spring the surprise from their wings.

But while their plan was failing, a free-flowing Swedish attack with powerful backs Lukas Nilsson and Albin Lagergren easily found the way to the goal. With 10 minutes left in the first half, Sweden was cruising to a 13:7 lead, that looked unassailable.

However, it was goalkeeper Mikael Appelgren who stole the show for the Nordic side, with an impressive 55% save percentage through 12 amazing saves, including one with his face.

Therefore, it was no surprise that Sweden was heading for their first win at the EHF EURO 2018, boasting a 16:10 lead at half time.

Sweden complete milestone

A 5:2 partial score at the start of the second half saw Serbia back into contention, as Sweden’s sharpness from the first half shifted into a more negligent attitude.

But it was still the same Appelgren between the posts, who carried on with his astounding game, closing the goal in critical situation, to give Sweden the edge.

Yet the relentless Serbian side continued to believe in their chance. A 4:1 run between the 46th and the 49th minute saw the Swedish lead cut to only two goals, 23:21.

It was more of the same from Appelgren, the best player of the match, who produced three amazing saves to deny the Serbian team cutting the gap to only one goal.

As Mattias Zachrisson put the 26th goal past the superb Vladimir Cupara, Sweden scored their 2,000th goal at the EHF EURO, becoming the sixth team to reach that milestone, after Spain, Denmark, Croatia, France and Germany.

Ultimately, Sweden completed a 30:25 win against Serbia, as the Nordic side snatched their first two points in the competition and improved their chances to progress to the next phase.

"We had to run for 60 minutes. We were trying to win through fastbreaks. It worked well from the beggining so we won the game," Mattias Zachrisson commented.

After their second loss in as many games at the EHF EURO, Serbia are now facing elimination and have a must-win game on Tuesday, against Iceland, provided that the Nordic side does not win or draw against Croatia.

''We had a chance, we came back after a six or seven-goal difference to a two-goal difference. We missed a lot of chances, their goalkeeper had about twelve saves in the first half-time only," Petar Djordjic commented.

''We had a possibility to turn the match over, especially when playing six against four, but then I made a mistake, and then we made another two or three mistakes...," he added.

written by Adrian Costeiu / br