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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Battling Great Britain Go Down Against Austria

Great Britain 17
Austria 23

BATTLING Great Britain went down fighting 17-23 to Austria in their 2010 Women’s Handball European Championship qualifier in a tight game at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow which represents the GB Women’s team best result to date.

Austrian right-back Katrin Engel top-scored with seven goals, followed by team-mate Isabel Plach, while Amondine Webb and Lyn Byl top scoring for GB with four apiece.

GB lost 30-20 to Austria in their opening Group 3 qualification match back in October and were out for revenge here, but faced Austria with a few injury concerns and were without left-back Kathryn Fudge (foot) and Laura Innes (back) whilst pivot Jeanett Andersen was also unavailable.

However, 21-year-old left-back Ewa Palies of southern French side SUNAL Bouillargues made her long-awaited debut after recovering from injury.

The first half was a combination of fantastic goalkeeping and defence by Great Britain coupled with aggressive forward play which saw seen the much-fancied Austrians, who boasted a number of players with EHF Champions League experience, struggle to get their game going.

Amondine Webb opened the scoring for GB halfway through the second minute, which was quickly answered by Stephanie Subke for Austria, before Lyn Byl restored the lead.

Austria then opened up a two goal lead before GB debutant Ewa Palies, who plays her club handball in France fed Webb to make it GB 3-4 Austria. GB then started to find gaps in the Austrian defence through their aggressive play, most notably through Palies and it was her strike on 17:45 to make the score 6-7 that led the Austrian coach Mihaly Godor to take the first time out of the match.

Austria wasted a number of golden opportunities on the fast break to score through a combination of excellent saves by Sarah Hargreaves and poor finishing. Lyn Byl and GB Captain Lynn McCafferty (pictured) successfully double-marked Austrian dangerwoman Simona Spiridon, who stands at 1.85 metres, to a mere spectator and who received a yellow card for her frustration with being marked out of the game.

Two missed penalties by the Austrians compounded their woes and GB finished the first half strongly and arguably could have gone in at the break with the scores even had they capitalised on some chances in the last few minutes.

The second half saw Austria quickly open up their largest lead of the match going clear by five goals at 14-9 thanks to Engel’s strikes both from open play and the penalty spot and also helped by GB captain’s Lynn McCafferty’s two minute suspension.

Engel plays her club handball alongside GB’s Lyn Byl at Bayer Leverkusen and scored nine goals in the first match in Feldkirchen and was a constant threat here tonight, giving the GB side a number of problems with her smooth attacking play.

GB, who worked fantastically well throughout the match, were spurred on by the partisan Glaswegian crowd as strikes by Holly Lam-Moores, Kelsi Fairbrother, Lyn Byl, Nina Heglund, Jessica Guy – who scored her first official goal for GB - and Marie Gerbron, who finished the scoring in the match, made for an exciting match and nailbiting time for the visitors.

However it was the quality of Engel, alongside Isabel Plach, whose consistent scoring ensured that the Austrians go into their weekend game against Iceland knowing that anything less than a win by five clear goals will see them fail to make the European Championships in Denmark and Norway in December.

The match will be remembered though for a fantastic display from the GB Women, following on from their win against Portugal at the weekend.

The whole squad will go into Sunday’s final qualifier against France in Lille with heads held high, knowing that they have kept one of the world’s best sides within touching distance and are now a force to be reckoned with.

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