Seven German victories, one draw – this was the EHF EURO balance between Germany and Slovenia until Monday night. Then the Slovenians seemed to be on the path to a win for the first time ever with three seconds to go, as they led 25:24.
When the final whistle sounded, the video technology was called and after analysis, the decision was made that Slovenia’s Blaz Blagotinsek stopped Germany’s final attempt in the middle circle. The line player was sent off with a red card, Germany received a penalty – and Tobias Reichmann netted to equalise the final result, 25:25 (15:10).
At the end of the second EHF EURO 2018 Group C for these sides, Germany lead the table in Zagreb after their clear opening win against Montenegro, while Slovenia took their first point.
Slovenia had a stronger performance through the first 40 minutes. The 24:25 opening defeat against FYR Macedonia was like a motivating sting in their flesh, and coach Veselin Vujovic had adapted his side perfectly to face the defending champions.
From the first second on – at least until the break – Slovenia won the goalkeeper duel clearly: While Urban Lesjak saved eight shots in the first half (adding only one after the break), Germans Andreas Wolff and Silvio Heinevetter only saved one each, before finishing with six in total.
In attack, Miha Zarabec was a brilliant leader for Slovenia. The THW Kiel playmaker did not only score three goals on his own in the first half, but ensured that left back Borut Mackovsek and line player Blagotinsek (both four goals) were two very dangerous weapons. Germany’s defence, which conceded only 19 goals in 60 minutes against Montenegro on Saturday (32:19), was well below par.
Coach Christian Prokop changed the defensive tactics and the players involved several times, but the World Championship 2017 bronze medallists consistently found the gaps to score. In minute 12, the score was 5:2, in minute 21, it was 10:6 – and at that moment, Germany’s Uwe Gensheimer (two) and Tobias Reichmann had already missed three penalty shots.
On the other hand, the Slovenian fans that formed a clear majority in Arena Zagreb were happy, as their team’s defence and attack were much better than the Germans – a fact proven by the 15:10 half-time lead. The 10 strikes from Germany were the lowest number the team have scored in a first half of an EHF EURO match since the 8:12 result against Poland in 2010.
"The first half wasn't so good, Slovenia's defence was really strong, but we kept our heads high and at the end we won a point," said Germany coach Prokop.
Slovenia remained the stronger team in the initial stages of the second half, though Germany intermediately reduced the gap to 15:17. Slovenia received two two-minute suspensions in minute 45, when the score stood at 19:16, and Germany profited from the numerical advantage, netting three times for the first equal result in the match – 19:19 in the 47th. When Hendrik Pekeler scored for 21:20 with nine and a half minutes to go, the Slovenians were truly shocked by what was a 10:5 series from their opponents after the break.
In the final minutes, Slovenia pulled ahead to 23:21 after another great strike from Zarabec (Slovenia’s top scorer with five), but Germany levelled the result again. Then came the last 90 seconds: Kavticnik brought Slovenia ahead, Paul Drux equalised. At 59:57, Blaz Janc broke through the German defence and hit the back of the net – but his 25:24 was not the final goal in this dramatic encounter.
"We fought until the end today. In the first half, we played amazing defence, letting a team like Germany score only 10 goals. Also, in the second half we played good, with smart attack to the goal," said Janc after the match. "In the end, a very good match to us! I’m really satisfied how we played today."