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09.01.2016, 20:50
Györ and Vardar prevail on enthralling opening day
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GROUP 2 REVIEW: Györi Audi ETO KC and HC Vardar edged their respective rivals as the group’s opening doubleheader produced a pair of spectacular clashes

»EHF CL Channel »2015-16 Women's CL
»Main Round
»
 

Györ and Vardar prevail on enthralling opening day

With the stakes up in the second group stage of Europe’s elite club competition, the big guns raised their game to a level promising to deliver mouth-watering action all the way to the finish line.

The epic rivalry between Györ and Buducnost took another twist as the Hungarian giants handed the Montenegrin powerhouse their first Women’s EHF Champions League defeat of the season, while Vardar squeezed past CSM Bucuresti after an equally titanic tussle.  

GROUP 2

Györi Audi ETO KC (HUN) vs Buducnost (MNE) 22:20 (13:11)


A vintage performance, reminiscent of their title-winning days, propelled Györi Audi ETO KC to memorable win over fierce rivals Buducnost in a rip-roaring curtain raiser to the competition’s main round.

Györ’s victory was all the more impressive for missing two key players, with long-term casualty Zsuzsanna Tomori and inspirational playmaker Anita Görbicz sidelined.

Having romped into the main round with a record of five wins and one draw, Buducnost hit the ground running and took an early 2:0 lead through Katarina Bulatovic and Cristina Neagu.

But the home side, roared on by a passionate home crowd, hit back with a valiant display of defensive steel and creative attacking play, inspired by their seemingly ageless pivot Heidi Loke.

The evergreen Norwegian carried Györ’s fightback on her shoulders, turning her markers on the six-metre line almost at will.

Sparked by three quick goals by Dutch prodigy Cornelia Nycke Groot, Györ redressed the balance before Loke took over and carved out a 10:7 advantage.

The Hungarian outfit was also richly aided by a barrage of superb saves from Loke’s compatriot Kari Aalvik Grimsbø, whose athleticism between the posts bedazzled the visitors.

Having taken a two-goal lead into the dressing room at the interval, Györ served Buducnost with water-tight marking in the second half, stifling their towering pivot Dragana Cvijic.

With Bulatovic and Neagu pushed back well beyond the nine-metre line, the visitors struggled to find the supply routes and were forced to take a flurry of difficult long-range shots.

The writing was on the wall for Buducnost when they fell 19:14 behind midway through the second half and although they refused to roll over, Györ held on to give the Montenegrin giants the first taste of Champions League defeat this season.

The effervescent Loke led the home side with five goals from six shots, whilst also winning a series of seven-metre penalties ruthlessly converted by fellow Norwegian Linn Yorum Sulland - the game’s top scorer with six goals.

Groot chipped in with five goals for Györ, while Bulatovic and Neagu scored four each for Buducnost. Visiting goalkeeper Marta Zderic also shone between the posts, but her accomplishment was superseded by a stellar Grimsbø at the other end.

Head coach of Buducnost Dragan Adzic said after the match: “Both teams had difficulties with injuries, but Györ could deal with it better than we could. Our attack didn’t work today very well; we will need to play much better in the future.”

While head coach of Györ Ambros Martin commented: “The girls have given an extremely good performance today. Today’s victory is the result of our very hard work from the beginning of the season. The key for today's win was our defence, and smart attacking play. For this reason we were able to dominate the game. I think with this defence we can beat every team in the world.”

HC Vardar (MKD) vs CSM Bucuresti (ROU) 22:21 (11:11)

Vardar got their main round campaign on the right track, but only after surviving an almighty scare from a gutsy CSM Bucharest who came close to pulling off a second upset against more heralded opposition.

Having contained holders Buducnost to an away draw in the group matches, Bucuresti showed their beaming confidence by racing into a 6:3 lead in a stunned Jane Sandanski arena.

Their Croatian goalkeeper Jelena Grubisic pulled off six saves in the opening stages, keeping at bay her compatriot Andrea Penezic who endured a difficult start to the game.

The home side upped the pace though, as Serbian playmaker Andrea Lekic picked up the gauntlet and inspired Vardar’s comeback with four first-half goals and several assists.

Having turned the tide to take an 11:8 lead, the Macedonian giants went to sleep in the last few minutes of the opening period and the visitors duly took advantage to get back on level terms.

An upset seemed to be on the cards after Bucuresti nosed ahead 13:11 shortly after the break, but their 5:0 run sprung Vardar back into life as the home side dug deep and showed their resilience.

The tit-for-tat battle, garnished by physical contests and flashes of individual brilliance alike, was settled after Vardar scored three goals without reply to take a decisive 22:19 lead in the last few minutes.

Bucuresti launched one last onslaught in the final two minutes but came up short, with Vardar doing just enough to come out on top.

Lekic led the home side with five goals while Penezic and French winger Siraba Dembele chipped in with four each.

Swede Isabelle Gulldén shone at the other end with a game-high eight goals and Ana Rodrigues Belo added four, but their support cast drew blanks in a tense finish.

Vardar's Andrea Penezic spoke after the game: "We were nervous and we weren't 100 per cent concentrated at the start, but the most important thing is that we got two points tonight. Now we have to start to think about our next opponent.”

Kim Rasmussen, head coach of Bucuresti, commented: "We had a lot of injuries and some players had to play more time than usually. At the end Vardar had more energy in the decisive moments. We are disappointed because we didn't win a single point. Vardar simply played well and scored important goals at the right time.”


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / bc
 
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