Randers coach talks to ehfCL.com after a convincing victory over Buxtehude and before their trip to Austria
Leslie surprised by good start
One might say that odds were against Danish womens´s champions Randers HK before the start of this season´s Women´s EHF Champions League. Prominent players such as Katrine Fruelund, Mette Melgaard, Susann Müller, Nina Wörz and Verónica Cuadrado left the club over the summer, and although they have been replaced by other prominent names like Macarena Aguilar, Siraba Dembele, Ulrika Ågren and Sabine Jacobsen, it was to be expected that it would take some time to make the new team work.
On top of all the changes a series of injuries came, and actually Monday evening´s EHF Champions League opener against Buxtehude was the first time this season that Randers were in their strongest formation.
On this background it came as a surprise to many people that the Danes managed to defeat the current number one on the German Bundesliga as big as 36:26. ehfCL.com had a talk with Randers´ head coach Jan Leslie about the challenges this season.
ehfCL.com: Considering the number of changes in your squad and the injury problems, what has the start to the season been like for you as coach?
Jan Leslie: Of course it was annoying that once we got our players home from the Olympics, the injury problems set in just after the Super Cup. It was only during the weekend that it became clear that all our players were fit to play Monday evening.
ehfCL.com: Based on all this turbulence at the start of the season, does it surprise you that your team has managed to not only be on top of the Danish league, but also to win your first EHF Champions League match that clearly?
Jan Leslie: It have not been in any doubt that we could be in the top of the Danish league, but it surprised me a bit that we could make such a convincing performance against Buxtehude. We knew in advance that they were a fast and well-playing team, but we knew where to set in to stop them. However, it surprised me a bit that we were that convincing – but we will need many more performances like this in order to qualify for Top 8.
ehfCL.com: It is by far not the first time that Randers is in the EHF Champions League, but it is the first time you are there as Danish champions, Is this also the year, where Randers is going to be successful in the EHF Champions League?
Jan Leslie: I hope so. The first year we were in the CL, the difference between a team from the middle of the Danish league – as we were at that time – and the European top was obvious, and we never stood a chance. Last year we were as close to reaching Top 8, as you possible can be without getting there. This year our first objective is to reach Top 8. In our group I expect Oltchim Vâlcea to be number one, and then we are three teams to decide the second place among us.
ehfCL.com: Your next task in the Champions League will be Saturday night away against Hypo Niederösterreich. Last year you won 29-28 in Vienna. Do you see the Saturday game as a key match?
Jan Leslie: Definitely. Having los their first match away to Oltchim Vâlcea (30-25, ed.) Hypo cannot afford to lose any points at home. Furthermore, not having made it into Top 8 last year I think that they are under heavy pressure to succeed this year. However, their team is stronger than the one they had last year, and there is no doubt that they will come against us with all they got, and that we are in for a tough challenge, also from the crowd in Vienna – but the pressure is on Hypo.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / br