FTC knocked out as Györ maintain perfect record
There were mixed fortunes for Hungarian clubs on the final weekend of the Women’s EHF Champions League Main Round, as last season’s finalists Györi Audi ETO KC stretched their impressive run to 12 wins from as many games while FTC Rail Cargo Hungaria lost any hope of reaching the semi-finals after a shock defeat by Zvezda Zvenigorod.
The results mean that Györ’s semi-final opponents will be the Group 2 runners-up, either Oltchim or Krim - depending on the outcome of their encounter in Romania on Sunday.
Outgoing holders Budućnost Podgorica, who lost any of hope of advancing to the last four with last week’s home defeat by Györ, suffered a drubbing in their final game at Larvik, who enjoyed a morale-boosting win ahead of the semi-finals.
Larvik (NOR) vs Budućnost Podgorica (MNE) 28:16 (13:5)
There is never an easy way for the reigning champions to relinquish their crown, but Budućnost Podgorica would have preferred a more defiant exit at the end of what has been a rollercoaster campaign.
Larvik, in contrast romped in to the semi-finals as Group 1 runners-up in a pressure-free game, having already secured their berth last week when they beat Zvezda and Budućnost lost to Györ.
The Norwegian champions, who won the continent’s elite competition in 2011, dominated the one-sided contest from start to finish as the evergreen Gro Hammerseng produced a vintage performance, capped by a game-high eight goals.
Karoline Dyhre Breivang and winger Linn-Kristin Koren Riegelhuth added five each for the home side, while Milena Knežević scored as many for Budućnost.
Györi Audi ETO KC (HUN) vs Randers (DEN) 32:24 (15:12)
Randers did their best to bow out of Europe’s premier club competition on a high note but the Hungarian champions were in no mood to relinquish their phenomenal winning streak this season.
The Danish side made the brighter side and led by left back Camilla Dalby, who played her last Women’s EHF Champions League game for Randers as she is set to join outgoing holders Budućnost Podgorica next season, the visitors romped to an early 6:3 lead.
Györ coach Ambros Martin fielded a bulk of fringe players in the opening stages and having seen his side fall behind, he quickly introduced his regular starters who duly responded and turned the match on its head before halftime.
Quickfire goals from Serbia’s Andrea Lekić and Montenegrin right wing Jovanka Radičević fired the home side into a 14:10 lead in the closing stages of the first half and they never looked back after jumping into the driving seat of the free-flowing contest.
The advantage swelled to 28:20 as the final whistle beckoned and Györ’s players celebrated another emphatic win as if there was more than just pride to play for, having earlier secured the top spot in Group 1 and their semi-final berth with two games to spare.
Playmaker Anita Görbicz and the tireless Radičević scored six goals each for the hosts while Dalby led Randers with five.
Zvezda Zvenigorod (RUS) vs FTC Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) 30:27 (12:16)
Few would have thought that Ferencvaros would suffer such a meltdown after winning their opening three Main Round games in grand style, but lack of depth in their roster cost them dearly and was everywhere to be seen in the crunch defeat at Zvezda which knocked them out of the semi-finals.
The competition’s top scorer Zsuzsanna Tomori and Zita Szucsanzki scored 10 goals each against the Russian side but the support cast combined for a mere seven, as the home side registered their first win in the second group stage of the competition.
FTC, who lifted the EHF Cup Winners Cup in the past two seasons, seemed on course to keep alive their hopes of reaching the semi-finals when they conjured a four-goal halftime lead.
However, they faded out after the break as Zvezda piled on the pressure to finally give their fans something to cheer about following five defeats in what has turned out to be a fiercely competitive group.
Left back Liudmila Postnova capped a brilliant individual performance with eight goals for the home side, Anastasia Lobach scored six while Alexandra Lacrabere, Julija Nikolic and Yana Uskova netted five each.
Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea and Krim Mercator have thus advanced to the semi-finals and their clash on Sunday will only determine who wins the group.
Krim have the upper hand as Oltchim will finish top only if they win by four goals or more, the reward being a two-legged clash with 2011 champions Larvik rather than this season’s favourites Györ, who emphatically won Group 1.
TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / cor