Handball: Team GB women thrashed by Russia at the Copper Box


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The Independent Online

Great Britain women were soundly beaten 16 - 37 by Russia in their second Group A preliminary match at the Copper Box this afternoon.

Having made their Olympic Games debut with a promising display in a 31-19 defeat to medal-hopefuls Montenegro on Saturday night, there was no let-up against another eastern European powerhouse in Russia, who are former world champions and also eyeing a spot on the podium in a fortnight's time.

And despite another performance which gives some cause for optimism, the scoreline shows a heavy loss and Team GB struggled to cope with the power of their vastly physically-superior opponents, who ended up winning at a canter.

Lyn Byl top scored for the hosts with five while Sarah Hargreaves impressed in goal with a number of important saves.

After the excitement of appearing at an Olympics for the first time and experiencing the British public's enthusiasm towards an unknown sport, Jesper Holmris' side were keen to get down to business without any distractions.

Russia coach Evgeny Trefilov told his players some of them should think about retiring after they scraped past Angola in their opening match and he must have been close to the edge when two Marie Gerbron strikes for the hosts cancelled out a fast start to level at 2-2 and send the Copper Box wild.

But Trefilov's words soon sunk in and Russia rattled off six successive goals to give them an 8-2 lead, which even as early as the 13th minute was always going to be too much for Team GB to recover.

Zoe van der Weel broke that run with a superb lob, but for all their possession they struggled to penetrate a brutal Russian defence, whose tallest player stands at an imposing 6ft 3in.

Despite seeing their side concede at regular intervals, the partisan home crowd cheered every goal Team GB scored as if it was the one to win the gold medal, offering further proof that the unsuspecting British public has taken to a sport which was virtually unknown before Saturday.

It was a case of Land of the Giants in the Russian ranks and they used that to open up a nine-goal advantage at the half-time break, leading 17-8, with Liudmila Postnova bagging four times.

They did not let up after the restart, knocking in five consecutive goals, but firsts of the game for Kathryn Fudge and Holly Lam-Moores and five Hargreaves saves got the crowd cheering.

But the Russian onslaught continued and they had increased their advantage to 12 goals by midway through the second half to lead 25-14.

Byl notched her fifth goal of the day, but the eastern Europeans threw in eight of the next nine goals as they began to run away with it.

It was a tough final 10 minutes for the hosts as Russia damaged the scoreboard, with goals from Lynn McCafferty and Lam-Moores brightening up the afternoon.

The defeat leaves them bottom of Group A, but Holmris and Team GB had stated from the off that their chance in this competition comes against the non-European teams, starting with Brazil on Wednesday.