Itxako one step closer to top eight, Larvik victorious, Viborg draw with Krim.
Budućnost in the Main Round
Budućnost beat their Norwegian opponents Byåsen in the opener of Round 4, whilst title defender Larvik celebrated a tight victory against a strong Podravka.
Itxako had to worry until the final whistle against a marvelous Buxtehuder SV. In the day´s closing match, Viborg HK were unable to take revenge for their massive loss in Ljubljana two rounds earlier, and despite a clear 7:0 lead, the Danes could only draw against Krim in this thriller.
Byåsen (NOR) vs. Budućnost (MNE) 24:34 (11:16)
For Byåsen, points were necessary to remain in the race for a Main Round spot, and therefore the Norwegians started with great motivation against the favoured Montenegrins.
The home side was able to keep the match open until the score of 8:9 with an outstanding Terese Pedersen in the goal and with their back-court scoring through distance shots.
Bojana Popović and her side didn´t give up, but fought back hard and not even a man-marking system against the Montenegrin superstar helped the locals to stop the east-European express that surged away and established a clear lead after 30 minutes.
On both sides, the goalkeepers (Clara Woltering and Terese Pedersen) showcased their best, but Dragan Adžić’s team punished every error of the hosts, who seemed to tire towards half-time.
Byåsen emerged from the changing room in better shape and Ida Alstad and her team-mates came as close as three goals (13:16), but then Budućnost, led by Milena Knežević, again found the rhythm of the match and selected top-gear to outclass the hosts.
The Norwegians were unable to stay in game against the super-strong Budućnost, who, with this victory, qualified for the Main Round.
Bojana Popović commented on their clear victory: “We came here to celebrate victory and we have succeeded. Therefore, I´m very happy. If we remain injury-free during the upcoming World Championship we can outdo ourselves and top our semi-final place from last year.”
Viborg HK (DEN) vs. RK Krim Mercator (SLO) 28:28 (16:9)
Everything remains open in this group, as Viborg squandered a 7:0 lead after 12 minutes and only drew against a hard-fighting Krim side that deservedly earned its point.
Everyone remembered Viborg´s Slovenian nightmare in Round 2, and now the opposite has happened, with the Danes being more determined and with Krim seemingly without plans and a frozen game.
Krim´s top scorer, Andrea Penezić, was well-marked, whilst on the Scandinavian side, everything clicked well in both defence and attack. Martin Albertsen´s team quickly moved to a 4:0 lead after seven minutes, forcing Krim coach Tone Tiselj to take an early time out.
After this horrid start, the Slovenians were shocked and lacking in ideas. They missed a 7 m penalty and could only score after 12 minutes, but by then, they were already down by 1:7.
Despite some calmer Krim play and a catch-up phase, the Slovenians only came as close as four goals. Then, left-winger Maria Fisker scored four times within a few minutes for Viborg, making it a comfortable lead of 16:9. The hosts’ goalkeeper Christina Pedersen was outstanding, with 62% saving efficiency.
Krim started a superb catch-up phase, and after a 6:2 serie the Slovenians forced Martin Albertsen to put his green card on the table. Important goals by Johanna Ahlm meant that Viborg continued to lead in this exciting match. 15 minutes before the end, the away side was only one goal behind, with their right-back Gorica Acimovic producing her best match in Krim colours. The ex-Viborg player was, besides Kristina Franić, mainly responsible for keeping her side in match.
Exciting minutes followed, with Viborg increasing the lead, and Krim catching up. Both goalkeepers played extraordinarily well, Jelena Grubisic saving several penalties, whilst Christina Pedersen stopped several clear-cut chances.
With some incredible fighting spirit being shown by the Slovenians, Ibolya Mehlmann of Krim turned the match in the 58 minute. Viborg only managed to equalize, so, in effect, the Danes lost an important point, and Krim gained it.
HC Podravka Vegeta (CRO) vs. Larvik (NOR) 21:24 (11:11)
Strong defences faced each other from the early minutes onwards, and it was the hosts who took the initiative with fantastic goals from Serbian international Sanja Damnjanović, the top-scorer of the duel with 9 goals. On Larvik´s side, Linn Jørum Sulland had a horrid game with poor shooting efficiency, and with her several missed chances, it was Podravka who controlled the match with leads of 2-3 goals.
With the improving Cecilie Leganger between the sticks, and with Tine Rustad Kristiansen´s goals, the away side closed the gap through quick counter attack goals and leveled the match at half time.
In the second period many things changed on the court: both teams forgot about defence and were more focused on turning their quick attacks into direct shots.
Larvik´s defence started to stand well again, and thanks to Tonje Larsen attacking as well, the Norwegians moved ahead by 2-3 goals.
The hosts tried to close the gap, and they used different defensive formations. They had the chance to level the game after 19:20, but the experienced Scandinavians were able to maintain their lead till the end, and took home two important points from Croatia.
Buxtehuder SV (GER) vs Grupo Asfi Itxako Navarra (ESP) 31:32 (14:14)
A major victory for Itxako against a very strong German side that showed great fight, and yet was unable to avoid defeat. Therefore, they still remain without points in the group phase. For coach Ambros Martín´s team, which had to suffer until the dying seconds, this win is a major step towards the Main Round.
Buxtehude started the game better, and the Spaniards had several problems with the rock-solid defence of the hosts. When Nerea Pena and her colleagues found their pace in both attack and defence, Itxako turned things around, and started to control the game. Nevertheless, the home side used Itxako´s exclusions to close the gap, so that half time showed a level game.
As with the first half, Buxtehude started the second period more focused, but Itxako reacted quickly with three consecutive goals. After 45 minutes the Spaniards had a comfortable lead of 5 goals and it seemed that the match was decided. The hosts had other ideas, though, going all-out to close the gap to a single goal.
In the dying minutes Itxako were much luckier, so their great suffering was relieved with the final whistle and their one goal victory.
Top-scorer of the match was Buxtehude´s line player Diane Lamein with 9 goals, whilst for Itxako, Alexandrina Barbosa scored 8 times.
TEXT: Márk Hegedüs
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