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03.11.2013, 20:50
Vardar and Larvik storm into last eight as Buducnost stay afloat
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ROUND REVIEW: Three teams have already clinched the Main Round berth with two rounds still to be played. FC Midtjylland suffered their first defeat of the season as they yielded to 2012 winners Buducnost.
 

Vardar and Larvik storm into last eight as Buducnost stay afloat

Macedonian title holders Vardar Skopje made history after a crushing defeat of former European giants Podravka saw them reach the EHF Champions League Main Round at the first time of asking.

While Vardar also pushed Larvik in the last eight from Group D with two games to spare, 2012 winners Buducnost kept alive their hopes of getting there after a convincing home win against Midtjylland thanks to yet another great display by goalkeeper Clara Woltering.

In that tight group, FTC Rail Cargo Hungaria boosted their own chances with a hard-fought win at Poland's MKS Selgros Lublin, while Swedish upstarts Sävehof are on the verge of winning their first Main Round berth ever after an impressive home victory against Leipzig.

Group B

MKS Selgros Lublin (POL) vs FTC Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) 24:26 (12:15)
In Lublin

FTC Rail Cargo Hungaria jumped into the driving seat to reach the Main Round from a tight group after scraping a fortuitous win at Lublin, who came close to snatching their first points of the campaign and hand new coach Sabina Wlodek what would have been a memorable debut.

The key to FTC’s win was engineering a 5:1 lead early in the game and keeping a clean sheet in the opening seven minutes of the second, as Zsuzsanna Tomori ground down the Polish resistance with seven goals and winger Monika Kovacsicz added five.

In contrast, Alina Wojtas was a pale shadow of the player who scored 11 goals in the reverse fixture in Hungary and Lublin relied on right back Kamila Skrzyniarz as she rifled in a game-high eight goals for the home side.

Lublin were hopeful of snatching at least a draw after a pair of penalties by Dorota Malek tied the score at 23:23 with four minutes left, but FTC’s vast experience epitomised by the clinical finishing of Tomori and Kovacsicz swung the match the Hungarian team’s way.

“It wasn’t an easy game for us and I believe that changing the head coach gave Lublin extra motivation,” FTC coach Gabor Elek told a post-game press conference.

“We made too many mistakes but with our hearts and minds in the right place, we came away with two precious points from Lublin,” he added.
Wlodek conceded that poor spells at the beginning of either half cost her side dearly.

“We didn't play at a steady level for 60 minutes and we started both halves very badly,” said Wlodek, an assistant to Edward Jankowski who made way for her due to health reasons.

The Sunday national mourning in Poland for the funeral of the country’s first democratic Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, who passed away on 28 October, prompted both teams to wear black ribbons on their sleeves and they also entered the court to classical music.

Buducnost Podgorica (MNE) vs FC Midtjylland (DEN) 22:15 (12:10)
In Podgorica

Buducnost hauled themselves back into the race for a top-two finish and a Main round berth after a fantastic performance by their German goalkeeper Clara Woltering drove them to a an emphatic win over Midtjylland, who suffered their first defeat of the season.

The seven-goal triumph, which came on the back of a staggering 54-percent save ratio from Woltering, also means that the Montenegrin champions will have the edge over their Danish rivals if they finish level on points.

Centre back Milena Knezevic was instrumental in the first half, scoring seven goals in the opening period after only managing as many in the previous three games.

The unstoppable playmaker was at the heart of carving out an 8:4 lead but Midtjylland hit back to level the score at 10:10 before Knezevic and Mehmedovic enabled the home team to take a slender advantage into the dressing room at halftime.

A tight and dramatic second half looked to be on the card after the visitors scored two goals without reply to cut the deficit to 13:12 shortly after the break.

However, they went scoreless in the next 13 minutes as Woltering seemed to mesmerise Midtjylland’s shooters while the home team rifled in six goals in a row to effectively end the game as a contest.

The Danish side fought hard to keep the deficit down but were second best in all departments, as Buducnost comfortably held on to their massive advantage and mobbed the outstanding Woltering in delight after the final whistle.

Knezevic led the way for the home team with eight goals, Polish international Kinga Byzdra added four, while wingers Majda Mehmedovic and Radmila Petrovic chipped in with three each.

Stine Jorgensen topped the scoring for Mitdjylland with five goals and Susan Torp Thorsgaard netted four.

Group C

IK Sävehof (SWE) vs HC Leipzig (GER) 30:23 (14:13)
In Partille

Few handball pundits would have given Sävehof much of a chance to reach the Main Round when they were pitted in a tough group including Krim, Metz and Leipzig, but an impressive double over the German side has put the Swedish title holders on the verge of achieving their dream.

Having failed five times either in Group Matches or qualification tournaments, Sävehof need only a point in their remaining two games at home to Krim and away at Metz to clinch the runners-up spot, which would steer them into the last eight.


A tight first half was followed by a one-sided second period with the outstanding Ida Oden scoring a game-high eight goals for Sävehof, while Jenny Alm and Louise Sand added five each.

Saskia Lang netted six and Susann Müller chipped in with five for Leipzig, but Karolina Szwed Orneborg’s contribution boiled down to three goals and the combined effort was not enough to avoid defeat in front of 1,500 passionate home fans in Partille.

Group D

HC Podravka Vegeta (CRO) vs WHC Vardar SCBT (MKD) 17:35 (10:16)

How the wheel of fortune turns in professional sport. Vardar were not even on the European handball map when Podravka won their only EHF Champions League title back in 1996, but the outcome of their doubleheader has basically reversed their roles in women’s club handball.
 
An emerging force from FYR Macedonia, Vardar emphatically marched into the Main Round in their first season among Europe’s elite and joined 2011 champions Larvik from Group D.

Podravka, on the other hand, can only find solace in a third-place finish and a spot in the Cup Winners Cup after the winter break – if they end their flailing campaign ahead of Balonmano Bera Bera.

The home side batlled hard in the first half and appeared set to give Vardar more of a run for their money when they cut the deficit to five goals early in the second period, but an 11:3 run by the visitors meant a whitewash was on the cards in Koprivnica.

Thriving in her preferred role of centre back after moving to the Macedonian outfit from holders Györ, Serbia playmaker Andrea Lekic led the way with a game-high eight goals, six of them in the first half when Vardar built their lead.

Lekic was rested in the closing stages as Podravka fell apart under a barrage of Vardar’s fast breaks and long-range thunderbolts from Lekic’s compatriot Marina Dmitrovic, the left back netting three goals as French left wing Siraba Dembele and Russia’s Tatiana Khmyrova chipped in with five each.

Their effervescent performances personified Vardar’s unstoppable attack which resulted in a 71-percent scoring rate, albeit against a youthful Podravka side who will in all likelihood need plenty of time and patience to rebuild after losing several stalwarts during the close season.


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / br
 
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