Croatia has started the main round at the EHF EURO 2018 with a victory in Zagreb on Thursday night.
Croatia, who could not afford a slip-up after finishing the preliminary round in second place in Group A, carrying over 2 points to the main round, kept their semi-final hopes alive with a 25-23 win against Belarus at Zagreb Arena.
Croatia led from the start of the match and controlled the first half, despite not firing on all cylinders at times.
The powerful 2-metre-tall Luka Stepancic led the way with 4 goals in the opening half, assisted by Zeljko Musa (3) and Marko Mamic (3) as Lino Cevar’s side went into the break 15-12 ahead.
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Belarus started the second 30 minutes better than the first, making Croatia work a lot harder for goals early on.
Both keepers, Viachaslau Saldatsenka in the Belarus goal and Ivan Stevanovic in Croatia’s, made saves to keep the score the same for four minutes in the second half.
Croatia then lifted a gear with Stepancic, Mamic and Zlatko Horvat finding the back of the net to maintain the advantage.
12 minutes before the end of the match Belarus’ Shylovich was given a direct red card for a foul but it did not affect their comeback as they levelled the score at 23-23 with 2 minutes left on the clock.
Luka Cindric’s goal with a minute remaining was enough to give Croatia the narrow win as Belarus could not manage a late reply. A close-fought win for the hosts.
Croatia faces Norway next on Saturday 20 January before their final main round match against France next Wednesday.
The main round features 2 groups of 6 with 2 teams from each group qualifying for the semi-finals.