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05.04.2012, 23:20
Battling for the final places
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Preview of the two second leg semi-final matches of the EHF Women's Champions League.
 

Battling for the final places

The first leg matches of the EHF Champions League semi-finals provided some great battles between the four remaining teams. Both Budućnost and Oltchim celebrated victories and will try to defend their advantages in the 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, offering free live streaming, as well as a video-on-demand service.

For regional TV listings of all the EHF Women's Champions League matches click HERE.


Győri Audi ETO (HUN) vs. C.S. Oltchim Rm. Vâlcea (ROU)
Saturday 7 April, 16:00 hrs (local time)


Will Oltchim repeat their quality performance from last weekend, or will the experienced Audi ETO make the most of playing at home and overturn the four-goal difference from the first leg match?

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

Coach Karl Erik Bøhn's team started the first leg well, leading throughout the first half and controlling the match, but in the second period the Hungarians seemed to forget how to play handball and looked shocked when Oltchim overran them.

Bøhn analyzed: "We haven´t seen anything extraordinary from our opponents. They were as good as we’d expected them to be, and they succeeded in everything they tried in the second period."

The coach added: "No surprises will be presented in the return leg. We aim to refine our game plan a lot and minimize the mistakes."

The Norwegian trainer will count on massive home spectator support in the Veszprém Arena, the stadium of MKB Veszprém. Győri Audi ETO´s management opted for the larger venue to host this all-important semi-final. 

Full capacity will be expected, even though the city is around an hour away from Győr. Bøhn's team already started its preparations at the stadium after the club´s return from Romania.

Former ETO player Aurelia Brădeanu has already been to the Veszprém Arena as a Győri Audi ETO player, in the EHF Champions League final against Danish side Viborg that her side lost to finish second in the competition. 

In Brădeanu`s opinion, the change of venue could be a disadvantage for the Hungarians as the middle-back considers Győri Audi ETO´s Magvassy Mihály Arena to be the louder stadium.

Oltchim coach Radu Voina was criticized during the first match for his side´s poor first half performance, but was then warmly praised after the very strong second period, when his players turned the result and built a four-goal lead ahead of the second leg tie. 

"We won the first game, but we should really go to Hungary with the aim of winning again. I stand by my opinion that the Hungarians are favourites to qualify. The odds are, in my opinion, 60%-40% in favour of Győr,” the trainer told.

Voina stressed that the defence will be the key factor for victory: "Scoring 35 goals against such a team as Győr, with the goalkeeper duo of Katalin Pálinger and Katrine Lunde Haraldsen between the posts is fantastic, but we have to remember that we conceded 31 goals and our defence didn’t look too secure. We allowed Eduarda Amorim far too much space.” 

Oltchim arrived in Hungary with 18 players, without Cristina Neagu, but with Marija Jovanović, even though the back player is still sidelined with an injury. 

Voina expects a noisy hall in Veszprém with the Hungarian spectators creating a vociferous atmosphere, but his side will, nevertheless, remain focused.


Budućnost (MNE) vs. Larvik (NOR)
Sunday 8 April, 19:00 hrs (local time)


Budućnost are in the best position out of the four semi-final participants, as the Montenegrin champions won the first leg match in an away duel. They are now ahead by two goals against the title holder who will be the guests in one of Europe´s loudest arenas, the Morača Hall. 

In Larvik it was a very physical battle between the two teams with the expected high-quality defences and top goalkeepers on both sides. 

Both, Larvik´s Cecilie Leganger and Budućnost's Clara Woltering produced several heroics in goal and were influential figures in the low scoring affair (20:22) in Norway.

Despite winning the first leg, Budućnost will remain fully focused before this highly important clash. The Montenegrins will enjoy the backing of their fanatical supporters, who will provide an intimidating atmosphere for the Norwegian guests.

Coach Ole Gustav Gjekstad's team doesn´t mind playing under great pressure, though, as they had to win the final games in the Preliminary Round and in the Main Round to progress to the next stage of the prestigious tournament. Whether they will come up with a victory for the third time whilst under pressure will be known on Sunday evening.

Unlike last year, Larvik cannot call on several of its star players, whilst Budućnost seem to have top quality prospects at every position, and so they should fire on all cylinders in the game.

The main firepower comes from the amazing back-court duo of Bojana Popović and Katarina Bulatović. Currently, both rank at position two in the top scorer list, behind Győri Audi ETO´s Anita Görbicz. 

Together, they have scored an amazing 164 goals for the hosts and Larvik must keep an eye on both of them in the return tie if they aim to progress to the final.

For the Norwegians, it would be the second consecutive final after being crowned champions last season, whilst for coach Dragan Adžić´s side it would be the first ever final participation after having failed seven previous times at the semi-final stage of the EHF Champions League.


TEXT: Márk Hegedüs
 
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