It takes two to tango, says Hrupec
Coaches rarely praise the opposition when their teams produce an outstanding performance and win, but that’s exactly what Podravka Vegeta’s Neven Hrupec did after the Croatian champions ground out a 25:22 home win against regional rivals Krim Mercator of Slovenia, in their rip-roaring Women´s EHF Champions League second round group match on Sunday.
Such was the intensity and quality of the game that there was no time for breathers-in, with both teams playing at full throttle from start to finish. Podravka came out on top thanks to another excellent performance by their Serbian left back Sanja Damnjanović (pictured right), who scored seven goals – including two in the closing stages which sealed her team’s victory, and top scorer Žana Čović, who netted eight times.
Hrupec, however, singled out Andrea Čović, who stood in for the injured Nikica Pušić-Koroljević on the left wing and did an oustanding job.
„She did everything I asked her to do, had an effervescent game in defence and is moving in the right direction of becoming a top player,“ the Podravka coach told reporters after an enthralling battle. „The opening two Group Matches were her first games in European competition and now she must keep working hard to improve,“ he pointed out.
And then Hrupec added: „It was a great game of handball and a credit to the sport, but it takes two good teams to produce a game like that. That’s what we saw and I think everybody enjoyed it.“
With half a dozen players out injured and top scorer Andrea Penezić, once a Podravka player, watching from the terraces of Koprivnica’s jam-packed sports complex as she awaits ankle surgery, Krim did as well as they could in a fervent atmopshere.
„It was a difficult situation for us because we haven’t had all our players available for over a month in training,“ Krim coach Tone Tiselj said. I am happy that we didn’t give up and kept going until the end, we played good defence but our offence was full of glitches,“ he underscored.
„If Podravka can produce performances at this level throughout the Group Matches, they have every chance of progressing to the Main Round,“ added Tiselj, whose team is likely to be Koprivnica’s main rival for a berth in the last eight, given that last season’s runners-up Györi Audi ETO are the odds-on favourites to win the group.
Hrupec, therefore, refused to be lulled into complacency by Tiselj’s appraisals. „He is a very experienced coach and knows what he is doing, although I agree that anything is possible. We have only played two matches and now head to a very difficult away game at Cluj, by no means an easy place for any visiting team,“ said Hrupec. „There is no room for complacency and we have to take it one game at a time.“
TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / br