Everything is wide open for Constanța
After the win against Celje Pivovarna Laško, HCM Constanța have set their sights on qualifying for the next phase of this season’s VELUX EHF Champions League.
Before the start of the season, HCM Constanța were considered one of the dark horses of the competition
An aggressive transfer campaign, which saw experienced players like Dalibor Čutura and Alberto Val Sancho signing for the Romanian side, meant one thing - “the sailors” wanted to qualify from the toughest group in this year’s competition.
However, three losses in their first three matches was not the start that HCM Constanța’s players had in mind.
The defeat against Swedish champions IK Sävehof was a big blow for the Romanian side. Following that defeat, two more, against MKB Veszprém KC and THW Kiel left HCM Constanța needing a win against Celje Pivovarna Laško.
“We can’t compete with teams like Kiel or Veszprém. But for us it is vital for us to win the game against Celje,” said Constanța’s coach Zvonko Šundovski before their game against the German champions.
The players were on the same page as their coach. After an embarrassing defeat against Kiel (14:35), in which Šundovski’s team scored the lowest amount of goals by a Romanian side in the history of the VELUX EHF Champions League, Constanța managed to grab its first win against Celje.
The game was by no means a formality for the Romanian side, although the hosts were in front for the entire game.
A great start for Constanța saw them take a lead of 7:1 after 15 minutes, coupled with an epic game by goalkeeper Mihai Popescu, who made 19 saves, “the sailors” managed to win 22:17 against the Slovenian side.
It was the 100th game in an European competitions for HCM Constanta, a great achievement for a side considering their first game in Europe was only 11 years ago, in Men’s EHF Challenge Cup.
“The game was very important to us and I am happy for the result. I am also very satisfied, because I have played well after an unsuccessful spell. I was hampered by a lot of injuries, but now I have regained my confidence.
“We will play to win every game from now on. Every point is important as the group is very balanced and complicated,” said Constanța’s hero, Mihai Popescu, after the game against Celje Laško.
Constanța’s sights are on the next set of games in the group. After four matches in Group C of this season’s VELUX EHF Champions League, the Romanian side sits bottom of the group with only two points.
However, Celje Pivovarna Laško and BM Atlético Madrid have the same number of points, leaving a lot to play for with two of the four places in the next phase are realistically available.
“It is a very balanced group. MKB Veszprém KC and THW Kiel are too strong for us. But the race for the last two qualifying places is wide open. Atlético beat Celje, then the Slovenians won against Sävehof, but lost against us. Everything is possible and we don’t want to make any mistakes. We want to qualify for the next phase,” said left wing George Buricea.
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TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / cor