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15.04.2011, 11:22
Battling out the final places
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Preview of the two second leg semifinal matches of the EHF Women's Champions League.
 

Battling out the final places

The first leg matches of the EHF Champions League semifinals provided some great battles between the remaining four teams. Both Larvik and Itxako won their home matches and try to defend five-goal advantages in their away return matches.

Equally tough clashes are expected in the second legs. ehfCL.com brings you a detailed preview and the latest news with regard to these two important matches.

Both decisive semi-final second leg matches of the EHF Women’s Champions League will be broadcast as a free-of-charge live web stream on ehfTV.com, which is the official Internet TV platform of the European Handball Federation that offers free live streaming as well as a video on demand service.

Audi ETO Győr (HUN) vs. Itxako Reyno De Navarra (ESP)
Sunday 17 April 2011, 17:30 hrs (local time)

Will Itxako continue their quality performance from last weekend, or will the experienced Audi ETO take advantage of playing at home and overturn the five goal difference from the first leg match?

If the Hungarians want to progress to the EHF Champions League final, they will have to present themselves in much better shape than they did last Saturday, when they performed rather disappointing.

"None of my team mates ever imagined that we would play so badly in that game. And the saddest thing was that no one could do anything against it," said a truly disappointed Simona Spiridon to ehfCL.com.

One of Győr’s main pillars, back player Eduarda Amorim was very much missed, as she is still recovering from an injury and could only play very little.

When she wasn’t on court, the Hungarian defence looked very unstable, and the attack also missed a precise shooter: "I must admit that we missed her a lot, but even without her we are a great team. We just made several mistakes in both attack and defence," added Győr’s line player.

On Wednesday Amorim played in the Hungarian league play-offs against Vác, scoring three times, and is expected to play on Sunday against Itxako.

Despite losing the first game so clearly, the return match will be different in Spiridon’s opinion: "Obviously, a five goal gap is big at this level, but I know teams that have turned a ten-goal difference in 60 minutes. Our motto on Sunday has to be to bite the opponent, otherwise we have no chance!"

On the other hand, Itxako, a fairly new team among the top-level handball clubs, surprised the Hungarians with their aggressive and open 5-1 defence to win again on home soil.

"Our special style of defence makes our opponents lose many balls, and we took full advantage of that today, when it seemed that Győr didn’t really know how to react," said an extremely happy Raphaëlle Tervel after the game.

The French international was surprised that the Hungarians came up with such a poor performance, but she is aware that in the return match a hard task awaits her side: "Győr played a horrible game, and we of course enjoyed it. But we know very well that they will not want to miss their chance at home. They will analyze this game, identify their mistakes and try to correct them. We expect a very tough return match!"

Lately there has been a lot of buzz about the Spaniards in world-wide handball media, and not many writers know how the outsiders could become such strong candidates for final and possibly title. Defensive specialist Tervel sees the reason for the great success in "a complete team with 15 players at an excellent level."

"Our coach can rotate his squad without losing the efficiency, which is very important for dealing with the busy schedule of the team. In addition we are highly motivated and the atmosphere among the players is excellent, so the job pays off."

Although Itxako travels with a five-goal advantage to Hungary, Tervel thinks that the chances are "45% for us and 55% for them".

"We’ve won the first game, but that does not mean that we have become favourites. Győr are the favourites because of all their experience in this top competition, and the fact of playing at home with the immeasurable support of their supporters."

Budućnost Podgorica (MNE) vs. Larvik HK (NOR)
Sunday 17 April 2011, 19:30 hrs (local time)

Just like Itxako, Larvik have a five-goal advantage after the first leg match, but they will play against a determined Budućnost team in a full hall in Podgorica, Montenegro.

The Montenegrins played a decent game in Norway, and despite losing by five goals, Dragan Adžić’s team presented themselves in good shape. However, Cecilia Leganger in goal on the opposite side, had a fantastic day. With her saves, the Norwegians extended their lead to celebrate a clear victory.

"What encourages me before the return match is that Larvik were proven to not be much better than us in any element of the game, and that we are able to deal with them. In fact, only our own mistakes allowed our rivals to gain the advantage," said Jovanka Radičević to ehfCL.com.

Budućnost will remain fully focused before this highly important clash and as the Montenegrins will be backed by their fanatical supporters, anything is possible in the return match.

The right-winger knows the recipe for success against the Norwegians: "We must reduce our mistakes to a minimum. In Norway, we stopped their counter attacks, which are one of their key weapons."

However, coach Dragan Adžić confirmed that the team’s goal-scoring machine, the suspended Katarina Bulatović, won’t play in the second game of Budućnost either, which will give Larvik a slim advantage again.

On the other side, coach Tor Odvar Moen and his Norwegian team were well prepared for the Montenegrin playing style and no surprises came up in the coach’s opinion: "We knew that it would be a very physical battle. Our main focus was on attack. We knew that Budućnost would do almost anything to prevent Heidi Løke from getting space on the line."

"We are getting more and more used to this scenario in our EHF CL games and we will continue to work on this element of our game," added Moen.

With a half-eye, the coach watched the end of the other semi-final match on Saturday and he is not surprised that Itxako won this game: "They have proven so many times this season that they are a very strong team, and if you can beat teams like Oltchim and Budućnost at home, you can beat any team in the world."

The Larvik coach knows that a full and loud arena will await his side on Sunday, but he doesn’t consider this as pressure: "Our players are quite experienced and know how to handle this. We know about the amazing atmosphere in Morača, but as long as the teams are given the right to decide the outcome of the match, this is just fun for us. If you’re a handball player, you are lucky to be part of such brilliant surroundings."

Larvik haven’t had much fluctuation in their game play in their away matches, but despite being on full throttle and showing top performances, coach Moen pays respect to the opponents: "Budućnost are a top-class team with high standards, whose players work hard for each other."

But he expects that "the Montenegrins have to open up a little bit more on their home court, taking a few more risks in their attacking game."


TEXT: Márk Hegedüs
 
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