After earning an EHF EURO 2018 Main Round berth with only the slightest of margins, Serbia could not find the resources to hold on against World Championship 2017 silver medallists Norway. The Scandinavian side built a 7:1 partial between the 32nd and 39th minutes to earn their third win in a row at the EHF EURO, which sees Serbia out of contention for a semi-final place.
"It was a hard game and Serbia played really well. We had a lot of problems in the first half, but we came back stronger in the second. We are looking forward to a game with Croatia it will be an important game," Norway coach Christian Berge said.
Norway and Serbia had little focus on defence in the first part of the game, with the two teams trading goals in a high-octane match, where 17 were scored in only 10 minutes (9:8 for Norway).
While jumping to a 14:11 lead, Norway recorded an other-worldly shooting efficiency, 92 per cent, while Sander Sagosen and Kristian Bjornsen could not be stopped by the Serbian defence. However, coach Jovica Cvetkovic’s side were on par in attack, as left wing Nemanja Ilic scored the nation’s 500th goal in their competitive history at the EHF EURO.
When Norway appeared to be cruising to their third consecutive win, coach Christian Berge called a time-out in an attempt to instil additional passion in his side’s game. The pause back-fired and Norway saw an easy couple of goals scored against them, as an unanswered 3:0 run allowed Serbia to take the lead, 16:15.
But Norway quickly bounced back to level the game, 17:17, before half-time, with both teams taking scoring efficiencies over 70 per cent into the break.
Unstoppable Sagosen and Bjornsen inspire Norway
With goalkeeper Torbjorn Bergerud upping his game, as he recorded three saves in three minutes – the same number he made in the first half – Norway started to pull ahead.
As their form improved, it was no surprise that a 7:1 partial propelled Berge’s side to an unassailable lead, 24:19, with 20 minutes remaining. As usual, it was Sander Sagosen who directed Norway, scoring for fun at times, as he finished the game with eight goals. Kristian Bjornsen reclaimed first place in the EHF EURO 2018 top goal scorer ranking as he also put eight past Serbia’s defence.
There was nothing Serbia could do to stop Norway, even with Zarko Sesum becoming their all-time top goal scorer in the EHF EURO, with a tally of 58 that pushed him past Momir Ilic.
''We fought the entire first half, gathered strength to show our quality, but I believe they [Norway] were better tonight, especially in the second half. It is what it is. That is handball, it is played for the entire 60 minutes and everything can happen," Sesum said after the game.
Norway earned their third win in a row, 32:27, and are now on four points in Group I, while Serbia remain level with Belarus in last place, on zero.