Team GB struggle in first ever handball match

Montenegro 31 Great Britain 19

Great Britain women's handball team put in a sterling display in their first-ever match in the Olympic Games, but it still ended in a 31-19 defeat to Montenegro in Group A of the preliminary stages at the Copper Box tonight.

Only formed six years ago after London was awarded the Games, they were always going to be up against it playing a team tipped to be in with a medal shout, but just being here is a fitting reward for the sacrifices the players have made in chase of their Olympic dream.

Indeed, one has lived apart from her husband, some left their jobs and others sold houses to be part of Team GB, but they showed that they are not out of place on the main stage, competing well with the eastern European powerhouses for much of the match.

While the scoreline shows a heavy defeat, there were plenty of positives to take as right-back Marie Gerbron netted six goals, left-back Kathryn Fudge chipped in with four and they created plenty of other chances against a stern defence, knowing their opportunity to register wins will come later in the competition.

Having lost twice to Montenegro twice in the last 10 months, there could have been some trepidation in the Team GB side, but they showed no fear in the opening exchanges as two Fudge goals kept them on Montenegro's tail while Gerbron thundered in a seven-metre shot.

But a combination of some powerful Montenegrin attacking and wastefulness in front of goal from the hosts meant the eastern European side built a healthy lead, that even midway through the first half, was always going to be too much for Team GB to claw back.

While the visitors continued to boss proceedings, Team GB were not being steam-rollered and heading into the final third of first half, they matched Montenegro for efforts on goal, but were operating at a far lower conversion rate.

The partisan home crowd were still given plenty to cheer about, though, as Fudge continued to impress while skipper Lynn McCafferty netted three times in quick succession to leave it 18-12 at the half-time break.

It was the same story at the start of the second half, with goalkeeper Jane Mayes proving her worth by making a string of fine saves and Lyn Byl twice sending a jam-packed Copper Box to its feet.

But Montenegro, inspired by the 6ft 1in Katarina Bulatovic's five goals, were just too prolific in attack and they always managed to keep Team GB at a safe distance, extending their lead as the game went on.

Dragan Adzic's side ran riot in the final 10 minutes, firing in a number of unanswered goals to perhaps just take the shine off Team GB's first 40-minute performance.

However, the hosts will be better for the experience and they now turn their attention to another European big gun, Russia, who they meet on Monday.

PA

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