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09.03.2014, 22:30
No winner in the clash of the titans as Group 1 goes down to the wire
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MATCH REVIEW: A day of draws in Sweden and Montenegro means that the top two from Group 1 and the winner of Group 2 will be decided over the final weekend of matches
 

No winner in the clash of the titans as Group 1 goes down to the wire

Sunday’s doubleheader produced a pair of enthralling contests and both ended in stalemates, meaning that there is still everything to play for in Group 1 while the top spot remains there for the taking in Group 2.

Midtjylland scraped a draw in the day’s curtain raiser at Sävehof and will head into the final weekend of the main round with their fate in their own hands, but will in all likelihood have to conjure a three-goal win against Thuringer at home to progress to the Women's EHF FINAL4 in Budapest.

Buducnost and Györ, the last two champions, were also deadlocked after a titanic tussle which swung one way and then the other before a share of the spoils left the holders from Hungary in the driving seat to win Group 2, as they remain a point ahead of the Montenegrin giants. Both teams had earlier booked their berths in Budapest.  

Group 1

IK Sävehof (SWE) vs FC Midtjylland (DEN) 29:29 (14:17)

If Midtjylland reach Budapest on 3/4 May, they will have to thank their German goalkeeper Sabine Englert after she kept them afloat in the race for a top-two finish ahead of the decisive home match against group leaders Thüringer HC next Sunday.

Not for the first time this season, Midtjylland squandered a hefty second-half advantage and left themselves with a mountain to climb in their last game against the German champions, which they have to win if they are to stand any chance of progressing to the showpiece event in Budapest.

Should Vardar celebrate a win at home against Sävehof, Midtjylland will have to beat Thuringer by a higher score than 26:24 (from the reverse fixture) to leapfrog them on a better head-to-head record, while a draw in Skopje would require a win by any margin from the Danish contenders.

It was a rollercoaster in the early stages of the cracker in Partille as the lead changed hands several times before Midtjylland turned a 9:8 deficit into a 14:11 advantage and stayed three goals to the good at half-time.

Englert kept Midtjylland in the driving seat with 11 saves in the opening period and the Danish side appeared to be in complete control midway through the second half, when they romped ahead 25:20 thanks to some flowing team work in attack.

But Sävehof refused to roll over and wiped out the deficit in less than 10 minutes as playmaker Jamina Roberts and the reinvigorated Ida Oden, who endured a tough first half, pierced through the visitors’ defence almost at will while Midtjylland committed a series of turnovers in attack.

It was a tit-for-tat battle in the last five minutes as Midtjylland kept nosing ahead before Oden equalised with a little over a minute left.

Sävehof had the final possession and a chance to knock their traditional Scandinavian rivals out of the reckoning for a FINAL4 berth, but the magnificent Englert saved two sitters in the last 40 seconds much to the relief of her teammates and coach Helle Thomsen.

Group 2

Buducnost (MNE) vs Györi Audi ETO (HUN) 26:26 (14:12)

The main round blockbuster duly lived up to its billing as it ticked all the boxes and delivered a truly spectacular clash in a jam-packed Moraca Hall, where some of the game’s biggest names shone in no uncertain terms.

Brilliant goals, superb saves, fierce attacking and ironclad defending had fans on the edge of their seats from start to finish, with late drama putting an icing on the cake as Buducnost and Gyor pröved right those pundits tipping them to meet again in the grand final on May 4.

The visitors got off to a better start and led 4:1 in the opening stages but Buducnost, roared on by fans who lit up the atmosphere with incessant beats to a giant drum, turned the tide thanks to three quickfire goals by their Polish acquisition Kinga Byzdra.

When line player Dragana Cvijic got going on the six-metre line, the Montenegrin title holders carved out a two-goal lead and then doubled it in the opening stages of the second half as their advantage soared to 19:15.

The home fans were in raptures after Milena Knezevic found the net while Buducnost played with four on the court to make the score 20:17.

Buducnost were still in control after Cristina Neagu twice hit the target and Byzdra added another to keep them 25:23 ahead as the game headed for a frantic finale.

However, Györ had more left in the tank and turned the contest on its head after Katarina Bulatovic, who had a relatively quiet game against her former club, Heidi Loke and Eduarda Amorim rifled in three unanswered goals to give the visitors a 26:25 lead.

Neagu drew level and the home side then had a chance to produce a final twist and leapfrog Györ into the group’s top spot, but their last possession came to nothing as there was not enough time to organise a proper attack.

Györ playmaker Anita Gorbicz finished as the game’s top scorer with eight goals, five of them from the penalty line, while Amorim added seven. Neagu had seven for Buducnost and Cvijic chipped in with five.


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / cor
 
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