ZAGREB (Reuters) – Holders Germany scraped a controversial 25-25 draw against Slovenia and Olympic champions Denmark suffered a shock 28-27 defeat by the Czech Republic in a pair of European handball championship classics on Monday.
The Germans booked a main round berth along with Spain and Macedonia, who ground out hard-earned wins against Hungary and Montenegro respectively, while the Danes left themselves work to do in their final preliminary pool match against the Spaniards.
After lengthy video-assisted deliberations, the officials awarded Germany a penalty on the buzzer for an infringement on the halfway line and Tobias Reichmann converted from seven meters amid a chorus of jeers from the Slovenia fans.
The outcome flattered Germany who were outplayed for much of their preliminary round contest in the Zagreb Arena and trailed by as many as six goals before the dramatic climax, which produced three goals in 13 frantic seconds.
Germany equalized only to fall behind again to a Blaz Janc goal with five seconds left, before Slovenia’s Blaz Blagotinsek was adjudged to have deliberately encroached on an opposition player looking to restart the game.
Reichmann held his nerve to deny the Slovenians, whose playmaker Miha Zarabec named Man of the Match after a dazzling display of speed and skill as he scored five goals and dished out a barrage of assists.
Germany winger Uwe Gensheimer led all scorers with seven goals and goalkeeper Silvio Heinevetter pulled off several superb saves in the second half.
The much-improved Czechs, who suffered a 32-15 drubbing by Spain in their opener, prevailed after a tense finish to their preliminary round game with the Danes thanks to eight goals by Ondrej Zdrahala.
Spain had to dig deep for a 27-25 victory over Hungary with four of their players netting four goals each, while Macedonia beat the Montenegrins 29-28 in a tense Balkan derby.
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ken Ferris)