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19.03.2007, 09:30
Title Holders on the Edge
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The impressive Lada Togliatti were leading by seven already, but Viborg managed to make a draw at the end.
 

Title Holders on the Edge 

Champions League title holders are balancing on the edge of an early exit. Viborg HK managed only a 32-32 home draw against Russian champions HC Lada Togliatti in the first leg of the quarterfinals. In fact, the Danes were on the way to lose all their chances in the first match already, being seven goals down already in the first half.

The match was full of tension - just as the picture revealsViborg surprised

Viborg were surprised right from the start by an extremely good Lada team, who played fast and managed to put enormous pressure on a remarkably flat and passive Viborg defence. In addition, Viborg missed many scoring opportunities.

Viborg coach Tomas Ryde said before the game that his team might be able to win the match with the goalkeeping performance, but actually Lada keeper Maria Sidorova did considerably better than her colleague, Valerie Nicolas. When Louise Bager Due replaced Nicolas in the Viborg goal, Sidorova still did just as well as Due.

Therefore Lada could take the initiative – and the lead – from the start and apart from 1-1 and 3-3 the score was never equal in the first half. Lada were soon up 7-4 and later 10-6.

Bliznova, the Russian right back had to finish her match with an ankle injury after 21 minutes and 37 seconds, but Lada were not particularly handicapped: Bliznova’s replacement, Ekatarina Davydenko, did a fine job and Lada could increase their lead to 18-12 and even 20-13. The seven goals were the biggest difference during the match. Not much was remaining from the first half when Viborg managed to reduce the gap to four goals: 17-21 in the break.

Improving Viborg defence

From the start of the second half Viborg’s defence appeared to be stronger and more aggressive. As the second half progressed, Lada seemed to have trouble keeping up their high pace shown in the first half. Nevertheless, the Russians managed to increase their lead once again – this time to 24-18 – before Viborg really began to come closer.

After 47 minutes and 14 seconds, then, the home team finally managed to equalise for the first time since 3-3. It was 25-25 and the 1979 spectators in the Viborg Stadionhal (apart from the 8 Lada fans) celebrated as if Viborg had won the match.

It was impressive how the spectators went on supporting their team, no matter how hopeless things were looking.

When it was 25-25, Lada coach Alexey Gumyakov called a team time-out. That seemed to help, as his team went two up again at 27-25. Viborg equalised at 27-27, but the guests managed to lead by two again. It was even 32-30 for the Russians, but Viborg managed to score the last two goals of the match, and secure the 32-32 draw.

Ryde: No surprises

“I was not surprised by anything in Lada’s style. We simply had too passive defence, and they could get a seven goal lead in the first half,” Viborg coach Tomas Ryde said after the match.

“Furthermore, we had too many bad shots during the match, but basically the result is okay. When a match is this close, it does not really matter, whether you win by two goals, lose by two or make a draw. We have seen worse situations after home matches, so nothing is decided yet. Last year we lost by two goals at home against Slagelse in the first leg of the quarterfinals, and we still managed to proceed in the tournament, but of course the trip to Togliatti is longer than a trip to Slagelse,” Ryde added.

All Viborg players ill with a flu before the match – Rikke Skov, Heidi Astrup and Grit Jurack – were fit for the game. While Skov and Astrup were obviously weakened by their illness, Jurack became her team’s most scoring player together with Henriette Mikkelsen. They both scored 9 goals, while left back Ludmilla Postnova, who played an outstanding match, scored 8 times for Lada Togliatti.

The second leg will be played Sunday evening in Togliatti.


TEXT: Peter Bruun
 
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