Smiles all around for Azerbaijan and Turkey

9 May 2017
Azerbaijan's Hamed Vahabi Dzaji shoots on goal during men's handball match between Azerbaijan and Pakistan

Azerbaijan and Turkey emerged from the opening day of the Islamic Solidarity Games handball tournament victorious.

In the men's tournament, the hosts bagged an impressive win over Pakistan 43-36 thanks to 10 goals from Oleg Georgiyevski and 11 from Maksim Butenko.

It was enough to take charge of Group A alongside Saudi Arabia, who produced a convincing performance to cruise past defending champions Algeria 26-13 earlier in the day.

The Fennecs fielded a very young team with just one player over 21 and the greater experience of the Saudis prevailed as they raced ahead early on and never looked in danger of defeat.

"When the result looked in the bag, the most important thing for me was to rest players and make sure no one played the whole 60 minutes", explained Saudi head coach Nenad Kljaic.

"I am of course satisfied with the result and the level of play we produced. Algeria didn't come with their strongest team but neither did we. And we had just one training session before", he added.

Earlier in the day, in Group B, Turkey were too good for Morocco as they opened their campaign with a 27-24 win over the north African side, who reached the quarter-finals in 2005.

"This defeat is really hard to take. We had a horrible start to the match and lost a lot of one-on-ones. We simply made too many mistakes", said Morocco coach Mustapha El Chaheb.

"But it also was our first game in 14 months, since the end of the 2016 African Cup of Nations.

"That didn't help a young team made of only local players. We left our pros at home so the younger players could prove themselves at a higher level", he explained after his team went down to six goals by centre back Onur Ersin and four by left back Baran Nalbantoglu.

In the final game of the day, six first half goals by high-flying right wing and crowd favourite Naser Baderaldeen helped Iraq dominate Jordan 37-15.

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