Rail Cargo Hungaria reaches Group Matches
Rail Cargo Hungaria progressed into the Group Matches of the Women´s EHF Champions League with an easy play-off win over Slovakia’s Iuventa while Viborg, Byåsen, Gdynia, Buxtehuder, Cluj and Rostov made it to the finals of their respective qualification tournaments and will all be hopeful of winning another three berths in the 16-team top European club competition.
The fifth and final berth from the preliminary stage will be decided in Paris, where Zvezda Zvenigorod are in a commanding position to join the elite.
Group 1 in Viborg (DEN)
Semi-finals on Saturday
Viborg and Vistal emerged as the expected winners in their semi-final clashes against unfancied opponents, setting up a mouth-watering final.
Viborg HK (DEN) vs LC Brühl Handball (SUI) 30:14 (15:6)
Danish giants Viborg HK, the winners of 13 national league titles and three Champions League trophies, made light work of their expected and emphatic win over Swiss rivals LC Brühl Handball, which allowed them to advance into Sunday’s final against Poland’s Vistal Laczpol Gdynia.
The star-studded home team, boasting the likes of Sabine Pedersen and Marit Malm Frafjord, held the upper hand from the start and took a massive nine-goal lead into the dressing room at halftime. The second half produced more one-way traffic as Viborg, who last won Europe’s premier club competition in 2010, kept their foot on the gas pedal.
Pedersen led Viborg with five goals, Frafjord added four while British 22-year old prospect Holly Lam-Moores was one of three players on the home team to score three goals. Tamara Bösch was Brühl’s top scorer with four goals while Annatina Benz and Louise Fudge added three each.
Balonmano Bera Bera (ESP) vs Vistal Łączpol Gdynia (POL) 22:31 (11:18)
There was hardly ever any doubt that the Polish team would be far too strong for their Spanish counterparts, who had to play catch-up from the start and never stood a realistic chance of overcoming their stronger and more experienced rivals. Karolina Sulżycka led Vistal’s charge with seven goals, Montenegrin Nataša Krnić scored six while Patricija Kulwinska and Loredana Mateescu netted five each. Rubio Ponce with seven goals and Pinedo Saenz, who scored six, were the lone beacons of light for Balonmano Bera Bera, who had to settle for a third-place match with LC Brühl Handball.
Vistal will head into the final with more fancied Viborg as slight underdogs but confident that they can stage an upset after their impressive performance against the Spaniards.
Final Day on Sunday
3-4 placement match: 14:00 hrs local time: LC Brühl Handball (SUI) vs Balonmano Bera Bera (ESP)
Final: 16:50 hrs local time: Viborg HC (NOR) vs Vistal Łączpol Gdynia (POL)
Group 2 in Trondheim (NOR)
Semi-finals on Saturday
Tournament hosts Byåsen stayed on course to qualify for the group stage but they will have to overcome a tough challenge from Germany’s Buxtehuder.
Byåsen Trondheim (NOR) vs WHC Metalurg (MKD) 29:19 (16:7)
What promised to be an enthralling rollercoaster ended up as a light workout for Norwegian powerhouse Byåsen, who stormed into Sunday’s final on home soil with a convincing 10-goal win over Metalurg.
The winners of four Norwegian league titles, the last one in 1989 having been overshadowed by Larvik ever since, raced into a 10-1 lead against their Macedonian rivals in the opening 10 minutes and never looked back.
They maintained their nine-goal advantage by the interval and showed no sign of slowing down after the break, having gone 26-14 ahead in the closing stages of the one-sided contest.
The irrepressible Ida Alstad led all scorers after netting 12 times for Byåsen, with Raja Toumi adding four and Marta Tomac three goals respectively for the winners. Dragana Pevecska topped the scoring charts for Metalurg with four goals while Robertina Mečevska and Mirjeta Bajramovska chipped in with three apiece.
Buxtehuder SV (GER) vs SERCODAK Dalfsen (NED) 34:31 (18:16)
Harder than expected, German runners-up Buxtehuder reached the final, where they face a mammoth task against Norway’s Byåsen, with a laboured 34:31 win against Dutch team SERCODAK Dalfsen as they were never quite able to get a stranglehold on the game.
The opening exchanges produced a balanced game with the scored tied 10:10 after 17 minutes, before Buxtehuder moved up a gear and scored four unanswered goals. But their rivals refused to roll over and having cut the deficit to just two goals by halftime, they threatened to produce a major shock when they took a 20:19 lead in the 35th minute.
Once again, the Germans showed their composure and swung the match their way when they carved out a 27:24 lead 12 minutes later. The slugfest was far from over though, as Dalfsen kept fighting back until the final whistle, although the writing was on the wall for them five minutes from time, when Buxtehuder had the cushion of four goals. Randy Bülau led the winners with six goals, Katja Langkeit added five while Josephine Techert, Friederike Lütz, Jessica Oldenburg and Maxi Hayn netted four each.
Final day on Sunday
3-4 placement match: 15:30 hrs local time: WHC Metalurg (MKD) vs SERCODAK Dalfsen (NED)
Final: 18:00 hrs local time: Byåsen Trondheim vs Buxtehuder SV (GER)
Group 3 in Cluj Napoca (ROU)
Semi-finals on Saturday
The home team will lock horns with Russia’s Rostov after the two sides overcame their semi-final opponents.
U Jolidon Cluj (ROU) vs Muratpasa Belediyesi SK Antalya (TUR) 34:26 (16:18)
The Romanian side rode their luck in the first half against their ambitious Turkish opponents but a solid defensive performance after the break allowed them to come away with a comfortable win on their home turf.
If they are to reach the Champions League group stage, Cluj will have to be considerably more consistent in the final against Russia’s Rostov, who will in all likelihood be an incomparably more difficult task to negotiate.
Magdalena Paraschiv and Maria Tivadar carried Cluj with eight goals each while Florina Chintoan provided perfect support to the duo with seven goals to her name. Serpil Iskenderoglu led Muratpasa with six goals.
Rostov-Don (RUS) vs RK Zaječar (SRB) 29:28 (12:9)
The Serbian champions failed for a third time in a row to reach the group stage of Europe’s premier club competition after suffering a heartbreaking defeat to Rostov in what was arguably the most evenly balanced contest in all three qualifying groups.
Zaječar, who had boosted their squad with a plethora of international stars in the last few years, including Croatia’s Maja Zebić and Spanish back Marta Mangue, looked out for the count when they trailed Rostov 25:19 with 11 minutes left on the clock.
A spirited fightback put them back on level terms, 28:28, before the Russians scored the winning goal and prompted an eruption of joy on their bench. Ukrainian import Regina Shymkute was instrumental in Rostov’s success with nine goals, Vladlena Bobrovnikova scored five, while Oxana Tsvirinko and Marina Yartseva netted four each.
Croatian Aneta Peraica and her Serb team mate Tanja Vučković rifled in seven goals apiece for Zaječar, with Spain’s Benzal Andaloussi adding five. One of they key’s to Rostov’s success was scoring all their penalty shots from the seven-metre line, while Zaječar converted one out of two.
Final day on Sunday
Final: 17:00 hrs local time: U Jolidon Cluj vs Rostov-Don
3-4 placement match: 19:20 hrs local time: RK Zaječar (SRB) vs Muratpasa Belediyesi SK Anatlya (TUR)
Wild Card Tournament
The final day of the round-robin three-team tournament will determine the winner.
Zvezda Zvenigorod (RUS) vs HC Leipzig (GER) 26:21 (12:12)
Having beaten the home team, Issy Paris Hand, 21:16 on Friday, HC Leipzig missed the chance to wrap things up against Russia’s Zvezda Zvenigorod and seal their passage into the group stage of the competition with a win against their Russian rivals. Leipzig seemd to be on their way when a 9:4 streak handed them an 11:9 lead shortly before the break, but their joy was short-lived.
Instead, Zvezda now have every chance of advancing into Group D alongside defending champions Budućnost Podgorica, Germany’s Thüringer HC (GER) as well as the winner of the Qualification Tournament 1 in Viborg. All though all three teams in Paris still have a mathematical chance of progressing, the Russian team will be hot favourites against Issy on Sunday.
Even a four-goal defeat would see them through on goal difference, but judging by the performances of all three teams Zvezda should have little trouble in coming out on top against the French team.
Anastasia Lobach, Liudmila Postnova and Macedonian Jelena Nikolić led a balanced team effort for Zvezda with five goals each, cancelling out a valiant solo run by Leipzig’s Dutch sharpshooter Laura Visser, who topped the scoring charts with six goals. Anne Hubinger added four for the Germans but it was not enough against the formidable Russian outfit.
Zvezda right back Alexandra Lacrabère was delighted with the outcome. "It's great to have the opportunity to access the group phase of the Champions League. That's why I came to Russia, to play matches at this level again. Our defence was much more aggressive than theirs in the second half, but you've got to credit the Leipzig girls because they had a great game,” she said.
Final day on Sunday
Issy Paris Hand (FRA) vs Zvezda Zvenigorod (RUS) 12:00 hrs local time
Rail Cargo Hungaria strolled into the group stage after an overwhelming aggregate win over the Slovakians.
Rail Cargo Hungaria FTC (HUN) vs Iuventa Michalovce (SVK) 31:22 (16:8)
The return leg of this contest was always going to be a formality after Rail Cargo Hungaria celebrated an impressive 40:26 win against Iuventa in Slovakia on Wednesday. Saturday’s win amounted to a 71:48 overall success and it was no more than the home team deserved.
It was clear from the start that the gulf between the two teams was only going to get bigger, as the Hungarians advanced effortlessly into Group C alongside Norway’s Larvik, Russia’s Dinamo Volgograd and Sweden’s IK Sävehof.
Spanish star Pena Abaurrea shone for Rail Cargo with six goals, followed by Monica Kovacsicz who scored five. Dora Deaki had four, Luca Szekereczes chipped in with three and five players scored two goals apiece for the home side. Patrícia Wollingerová led Iuventa with five goals.
Ján Packa, the Iuventa coach, acknowledged the better team won the tie. „I congratulate Ferencváros. They are better now and maybe in a few years we will be the better team.” His opposite number Gábor Elek added: „It is positive that our young players could play too during this game and that they played well. I am happy that we will play in the group stage of the Champions League.”
Find more information on Women´s EHF Champions League qualification here
Photo: Kevin Domas, Henrik Wolff
TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević /br