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25.02.2019, 17:07
Five takeaways after round 4
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TALKING POINTS: Secured quarter-final berths, impressive wins and underperforming sides all feature in the talking points after Women’s EHF Champions League Main Round 4

»EHF CL Channel »2018-19 Women's CL
»Main Round
»
 

Five takeaways after round 4

Györi Audi ETO KC and Metz Handball confirmed that they are the in-form sides in the Women’s EHF Champions League with commanding wins against CSM Bucuresti and Rostov-Don over the weekend. 

There are not many teams still fighting for a quarter-final berth, but the placement is hugely important, as playing the second leg at home could be decisive.

Last, but not least, there are some underperforming teams this season, yet none fell in the rankings more than Brest, who failed to win a game in the main round and are out of contention.

Another masterclass performance from Györ

If anyone needed another confirmation of Györ’s superb form, it came on Saturday in a packed Polivalenta Arena in Bucharest. The Hungarian side took advantage of CSM’s injury woes – which see them missing Cristina Neagu, Amanda Kurtovic, Majda Mehmedovic and Sabine Jacobsen – and took a 27:25 win in a more dominant way than the final score showed.

This time, Györ amped up their defence in the crucial moments of the game, while their back line, featuring huge talent and speed from Stine Oftedal and Nycke Groot, took the heavy load and scored important goals in the do-or-die moments. 

The Hungarian powerhouse are on a 19-game unbeaten streak – one of the best ever in the competition – having lost their last game in the Champions League in January 2018, against CSM. First place in the group is already secure, but do not think that Györ will take the next games lightly. 

Only one place up for grabs

The fourth round of this phase brought another set of answers to some of the most pressing questions, including who the quarter-finalists will be. After round 4, two quarter-final berths have been set in stone. 

With wins in their games this weekend, Vipers Kristiansand and FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria secured their place among the last eight teams in this season, joining Györ, CSM Bucuresti, Metz, Rostov and Buducnost. While Vipers earned their first ever quarter-final berth, FTC are have made it for the fourth consecutive time – though they have never reached the Women’s EHF FINAL4.

There is only one place still up for grabs, and the battle between two Danish sides will decide the last team to proceed to the next phase. Odense host Kobenhavn in the do-or-die game next Saturday. 

An underwhelming season for Brest

Setting out with huge ambitions for this season, Brest Bretagne Handball are one of the teams that fell short of their expectations after failing to win a game in the main round. The French side looked like a star-studded team that could challenge for a Women’s EHF FINAL4 berth, yet their defence never got going, conceding an alarming average of 29.5 goals per game. Right back Ana Gros is the competition’s top scorer, with 65 goals, yet she had little help in attack.

Losing star playmaker Isabelle Gullden due to pregnancy was another blow to Brest’s chances, but in general, the chemistry never appeared to be there for the French side. 

Five consecutive defeats – four of them in the main round – by an average of 5.4 goals per game, did not help. Brest, who are second in the French league, five points behind leaders Metz, will now have to wait at least another season for European glory.

Superb Metz have a target on their back

On the other hand, the French champions look to be a proper juggernaut, losing just one game, drawing another and winning eight. They hold a six-game winning streak after the overwhelming 26:18 success they took at Rostov last weekend. 

Of course, Rostov could not rely upon their star Anna Vyakhireva, who is out with an injury for the rest of the season. But an eight-goal win still is a commanding performance for a team that was far from the top of the power rankings at the start of the season.

In his fourth season as the team’s coach, Emmanuel Mayonnade has found the right balance in defence. The eight EHF EURO champions in the French squad surely helped the team’s balance and chemistry. 

If Metz were not contenders up until this point in the Women’s EHF Champions League, they definitely have a target on their back after their superb performances, especially with their competition-best 22.5 conceded goals per game.

The race for second place

With the quarter-final berth already secured, teams are now focusing on their placement. The battle is still on in both groups, yet the two group winners seem already decided. While Györ secured first place with their win against CSM on Saturday, Metz need only one victory in the last two games – against Brest and Kobenhavn – to top the group for the first time ever.

The situation is especially complicated in Group 2, where CSM, Vipers and FTC all eye second place, which offers an important advantage: hosting the second leg of the double header in the next round. 

Currently, CSM and Vipers are tied at 10 points each, while the Hungarian side are in fourth place, with nine points. Crucially, CSM have the better schedule – a trip to Krim, followed by a home game against Thüringer – as both other sides will have to face leaders Györ.

In Group 1, Rostov are now second, with 11 points – one point ahead of Buducnost. Odense and Kobenhavn have only the slimmest of chances to leapfrog the Montenegrin side, as they are tied in fourth place, with six points. 


TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / cg
 
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