Big guns Oltchim and Györ march on in grand style
The competition’s top two contenders to capture the elusive trophy enjoyed superb performances and emphatic wins over their rivals, with Romania’s Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea strolling to success at Buxtehuder SV while Hungarian side Györi Audi ETO engineered a clinical five-goal win against U Jolidon Cluj.
Zvezda Zvenigorod, who suffered a heavy defeat in the opening round, bounced back with a reassuring home victory against Thüringer HC. The result made it two defeats out of two for German clubs on a tough day for them, but overall a highly eventful one marked by stellar performances by Andrea Lekić, Katarina Bulatović and Anna Vyakhireva.
Finally, Hypo rekindled some of their past glory with an eye-catching performance against Randers and were rewarded with a convincing win which puts them in a good position to reach the Main Round.
Buxtehuder SV (GER ) vs Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea (ROU) 15:34 (6:14)
The Romanian champions showed just why they are this season’s favourites to win Europe’s elite club competition for women, despite entering the EHF Champions League with a new-look team.
Oltchim’s resounding win in the second round of the Group Matches will have sent a clear message to all rivals that they have only one thing on their minds this season, as the 19-goal win against German surprise package Buxtehude in no way flattered the visitors.
Katarina Bulatović, who won the coveted trophy with Podgorica last season, took no time to settle at Oltchim and having steered her team to a convincing home win over Hypo last weekend, the unstoppable Montenegrin right back led the charge once again with a game-high seven goals against last season’s runners-up in the German league.
Six of those seven goals came in a crucial first half, when rampant Oltchim raced into an 8:0 streak with the score tied at 4:4 to make sure there was no way back for the home team. Buxtehude, who collected just one point in six Group matches in 2011/12, showed strong will and character to keep the score respectable at 13:20 but a compelling 10:0 run for the Oltchim exposed the gulf in class between the rivals.
“Our defence was good in the first half but our offence never got going as we lacked ideas and strength to test Vâlcea, who were the worthy winners of this match,” said Buxtehude coach Dirk Leun.
Ionela Stanca added six, while Bulatović’s compatriot Marija Jovanović and Ukrainian Iulia Managrova netted four apiece for Oltchim, who will be beaming with confidence when they head into a somewhat more testing encounter with Danish rivals Randers in the next round.
Lone Fischer, Buxtehude’s top player, again stood out for her team with six goals but her valiant solo effort was not enough against a much more resourceful side which dictated proceedings from start to finish.
Hypo NÖ (AUT) vs Randers HK (DEN) 32:25 (18:11)
Smarting from the opening defeat at Oltchim which came despite a good performance, Hypo got back to winning ways with an emphatic win against Randers which will have boosted their confidence as much as a rock-solid all round performance in front of their fans. Both teams have two points now, but Hypo will feel they have nosed ahead of Randers in the likely chase for the runners-up spot and a berth in the Main Round, with Oltchim looking odds-on favourites to finish as the group winners.
The game got off to a balanced start as Hypo maintained a one-goal lead throughout the opening 10 minutes, but were unable to pull away as Randers kept hitting back. However, defensive indiscipline cost the Danish side dearly as they kept giving away seven-metre penalty shots and the home team first carved out an 8:6 advantage in the 12th minute, which swelled to 13:8 in the 20th.
Randers struggled to find a way through Hypo’s mobile 6-0 defence while they also failed to contain fast breaks at the other end, as the Austrian giants romped away to an 18:11 halftime lead thanks to excellent finishing and 47 percent of the opposition’s shots saved by their goalkeeper.
Hypo’s illustrious history in the EHF Champions League was everywhere to be seen after the break, as they comfortably held their own. The opening 10 minutes of the second period constituted a blueprint copy of the same interval in the first half, as the two teams exchanged goals to make the score 22:15 to the hosts in the 40th minute.
Randers had committed 13 turnovers against only three by Hypo as the match headed into the last 10 minutes, with the home team leading 28:22 and still playing hard defence. Their quick interchange of passes created a barrage of easy shots and only some good saves by the Randers goalkeeper kept the score down, but in the end Hypo had too much firepower for the battling visitors.
U Jolidon Cluj (ROU) vs Györi Audi ETO (HUN) 25:30 (13:20)
Players who had a quiet game for Györ in the opening home win over Croatia’s Podravka Vegeta shone this time round, as Serbian middle back Andrea Lekić and Norwegian pivot Heidi Løke rifled in eight goals each for the Hungarian champions.
Cluj, who advanced this season to the Group Matches from the preliminary qualifying rounds for the first time in the club’s history, were still able to hold their heads high after the match in which they were clearly up against a stronger and more resourceful team.
The Hungarian champions have clearly not hit top gear yet but there is no doubt their form will improve gradually and take a familiar upward curve, as they strive to erase the bitter memories of last season’s final defeat by Podgorica on away goals.
The depth of Györ’s bench made all the difference against Cluj, as four players scored three goals apiece. The quartet was led by Brazilian Eduarda Amorim and Anita Gorbitz, to complement the dynamic duo of Lekić and Løke who kept finding gaps in the Romanian team’s defence. Mihaela Ani Senocico had a fine game for the home side and led their scoring chart with seven goals, while Elena Dinca and Maria Mihaela Tivadar chipped in with four each.
The next round of games in this group brings an eagerly-awaited clash between Györ and Slovenia’s Krim Mercator while Cluj are looking at another tough challenge against Croatian title holders and former European club champions Podravka Vegeta.
Zvezda Zvenigorod (RUS) vs Thüringer HC (GER) 31:24 (15:13)
These two teams headed into this showdown in a contrasting mood, one licking their wounds and the other driven by growing appetites.
Thüringer HC were buoyed by their shock first-round win over Denmark’s three-time Champions League winners Viborg, while Zvezda had it all to do after a 29:21 mauling by holders Budućnost Podgorica.
However, the Russian side showed their resilience and made amends for a poor performance in Montenegro, having ground out a vital win against the German champions.
Teenager Anna Vyakhireva, who scored one only goal in Podgorica, turned on the heat this time round and drove her team to a fully deserved victory with a game-high 10 goals. The unstoppable 17-year old backcourt shooter enabled Zvezda to stay in the driving seat from start to finish, although they missed three of five shots from the seven-metre penalty line. Liudmila Postnova followed with five goals for the winners, whose purposeful support cast also delivered the goods as four other players scored three goals each.
Nadja Nadgornaja was outstanding for THC with nine goals, Katrin Engel added five but the visitors ran out of steam in the second half after giving themselves a fighting chance with a solid performance in the first.
TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / br