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05.10.2013, 23:16
Favourites hit top gear and deliver on opening day
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MATCH REPORT: No surprises on the first set of games in the Women's EHF Champions League, with the contenders showing their strength from the outset
 

Favourites hit top gear and deliver on opening day

Holders Györ and former champions Larvik deserved full marks for a rampant start to their Women’s EHF Champions League campaigns after demolishing their respective rivals in grand style on Saturday.

Györ, who won their maiden title last season, made light work of their home game against Hypo while Larvik were just as impressive against Podravka, with Linn-Kristin Koren Riegelhuth in devastating form for the Norwegian title holders.

HC Leipzig scraped a fortuitous win at Metz in a battle of two teams returning to the elite of women’s club handball after a two-year absence, while Krim Mercator were made to work hard for a home success against Sweden’s fast-improving IK Sävehof.

Group A

Györi Audi ETO (HUN) vs Hypo Niederöstereich (AUT) 41:22 (21:11)

The defending champions showed in no uncertain terms that they will be the prime candidates to retain the trophy after an emphatic performance against Hypo, with their stellar new signing Katarina Bulatović inspired on her European debut for the Hungarian title holders.

Györ took no time to get into their stride and following an early 1:0 advantage for the visitors, they romped into an 8:3 lead with Montenegrin right back Bulatović scoring three goals from as many attempts.

The gulf in class was everywhere to be seen as Hypo could not match the home team’s pace, versatility and individual quality, with goals raining in from all angles as Györ turned on the heat.

Brazilian right wing Alexandra do Nascimento was a lone beacon of light for Hypo, but her prolific scoring was not enough to keep Györ at bay as the home team used the depth of their roster to devastating effect.

Norway’s legendary pivot Heidi Löke led Györ’s first-half charge with four goals while Bulatović, playmaker Anita Görbicz and Adrienn Orban netted three each, underlining the home team’s staggering 81 per cent scoring rate which cancelled out Do Nascimento’s valiant five-goal effort for Hypo.

Györ kept their feet on the gas pedal after the break, effortlessly increasing their lead to 31:17 halfway through the second period as Löke kept finding chinks in Hypo’s porous defence.

The advantage swelled to 37:20 with seven minutes left on the clock as the home team could even afford to rest their first-choice goalkeeper Katrine Lunde and give Orsolya Herr a chance.



Group C

Metz Handball (FRA) vs HC Leipzig (GER) 22:23 (11:13)

HC Leipzig celebrated a thrilling win on their return to Europe’s top flight after surviving a spirited second-half comeback from Metz, whose Serbian centre back Kristina Liščević threw away her team’s final possession in the dying moments of the game.

Leipzig led from start to finish as goalkeeper Julia Plöger shone between the posts, steering the German side to a 7:3 lead in the opening 15 minutes with a string of superb saves.

Led by Liščević and towering Dutch pivot Yvette Broch, Metz halved the deficit by the interval but a 7:1 run in the opening 10 minutes of the second half appeared to have put the game beyond the home team.

Susann Muller and Karolina Kudlacz were unstoppable but when the former earned a two-minute suspension, Metz were given a second lease of life and took full advantage.

Their Czech keeper Barbara Ranikova took over and roared on by the home fans, the French side conjured an impressive 10:3 streak to come within striking distance of salvaging a draw.

Their hopes were dashed, however, after Plöger saved a sitter from Broch and Liščević threw a wayward pass into touch with 10 second left on the clock. Muller and Broch scored a game-high five goals each for Leipzig, while Liščević and Broch led Metz with four apiece. 

Krim Mercator (SLO) vs IK Sävehof (SWE) 36:28 (14:12)

Anyone who might have expected Krim to have an easy ride against IK Sävehof got a nasty shock in the first half of this gripping encounter, when only a balanced team effort enabled the Slovenian side to take a slim two-goal lead into the dressing room.

Left wing Tamara Mavsar scored four goals in the first half for the home side while five other players, including influential Croatian left back Andrea Penezić, added two apiece.

A shock was seemingly on the cards after a four-goal blitz shortly after the break put the visitors in the driving seat, with Jamina Roberts netting her fourth goal to make the score 16:14 to Sävehof.

Krim quickly turned the tide as Montenegrin centre back Anđela Bulatović hit back with two goals and enabled the hosts to nose ahead 20:18, adding  another to make it 23:19 in front of a vociferous crowd.

The see-saw exchange of goals continued in the high-tempo encounter as Krim held a 28:24 lead thanks to some good long-range efforts by Penezić, but the contest was far from over.

Sävehof kept going and stayed afloat until Neli Irman converted a fast break to open up a five-goal lead (32:27) with less than seven minutes remaining and the Slovenian champions pulled away in the closing stages.



Group D

Larvik (NOR) vs HC Podravka Vegeta (CRO) 34:18 (17:7)

Former European champions Larvik made a perfect start with a convincing performance and win against Croatia’s title holders, with their big guns firing on all cylinders in the opening game.

There was never any doubt the Norwegians were strong favourites in this David versus Goliath clash but the extent to which Podravka were overawed must have surprised even the most die-hard Larvik fans.

Scoring almost at will in the first half, Larvik also showed steel at the back and engineered a whopping 14:3 lead in the 23rd minute, with right wing Linn-Kristin Koren Riegelhuth scoring six goals from as many shots in the acoustic Larvik Arena.

The early stages of the second half offered a better showing from Podravka as they held their own and cut the deficit to single digits (21:12) despite  Jelena Živković picking up a two-minute suspension.

With veteran 38-year-old goalkeeper Cecilie Leganger benched after the interval for some well-deserved rest after a series of fine saves in the first half, her understudy Alma Hasanić picked up the mantle and enabled Larvik to stay firmly in control.

The unstoppable Riegelhuth dispatched a delightful lob and then rifled in a rebound to take her tally to 10 goals from 11 attempts in the 52nd minute as Larvik moved up a gear and carved out a 29:16 advantage.

One would have thought that an ensuing time-out would helped Podravka regroup but it was Larvik who ran riot and scored three without reply, two of those goals coming from lethal fast breaks executed by Riegelhuth.

The irrepressible winger capped a memorable afternoon with a game-high 12 goals, with Anja Hammerseng-Edin and Nora Mörk adding four each.


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / cor
 
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