MATCH REPORT: Day of surprises in the Women's EHF Champions League, while the star studded Vardar continue to show their class
Baia Mare and Sävehof stun favourites as Vardar rout Podravka
The opening day of the Women’s EHF Champions League halfway mark produced two telling shocks as Sävehof romped to an emphatic win at Leipzig and top flight newcommers Baia Mare overpowered Hypo.
Both results have stirred up the battle for main round berths, with the favourites having to raise their game in the upcoming challenges if they are to avoid early elimination.
Macedonian title holders Vardar Skopje reaffirmed their credentials of a rising force with an emphatic win over Croatia’s HC Podravka Vegeta in a one-sided Balkan derby between.
HCM Baia Mare (ROU) vs Hypo Niederöstereich (AUT) 24:23 (8:12)
What a memorable afternoon for competition debutants Baia Mare. Not only did the Romanian side celebrate their first win at this stage of Europe’s flagship club competition, but they achieved it against one of the continent’s most heralded sides.
Trailing by four goals at half-time to the four-time winners, Baia Mare blew away Hypo in the second half and delighted over 2,000 fans as they gave themselves a fighting chance to challenge for a berth in the main round.
A gritty performance in the second period saw Baia Mare reduce the deficit to just one goal (13:12) before another storming run saw them carry a two-goal advantage (20:18) into a dramatic last 10 minutes.
Both teams gave as good as they got in a heart-stopping finale and it was Aneta Pirvut who grabbed the winner with just a few seconds remaining, sending the boisterous home fans into raptures.
“It doesn't matter that I scored the winning goal, it could have been any other girl.
Having eight different scorers was the key to victory for the home side, whose right wing Adriana Nechita led the way with six goals. Pivot Timea Tatar added five, Melinda Geiger netted four and Renata Ghionea chipped in with three goals for Baia Mare.
Hypo, on the other hand, could rely on the prolific trio of Alexandra Do Nascimento, Gorica Acimovic and Fernanda Franca da Silva to combine for 18 of their goals, as each of them rifled in six.
Ana Paula Rodrigues added four and Deonise Fachinello scored one but the rest of the roster was goal-shy and the visitors paid the price, as they also missed three of their seven penalty shots.
HC Leipzig (GER) vs IK Sävehof (SWE) 28:34 (15:18)
Losing four key players to injury was too big a blow for Leipzig to handle and a fast-improving Sävehof side took full advantage, making a giant step towards the main round with their second win in three matches.
Right back Ida Oden, who shone in last weekend’s win over Metz when she scored 11 goals, followed up on her tally with another impressive performance garnished by a game-high nine goals for the visitors.
Left back Jenny Alm added eight and the versatile Jamina Roberts chipped in with six to underline a terrific afternoon for Sävehof’s backcourt trio, who tormented Leipzig with their scoring prowess.
The home side also paid dearly for missing five penalty shots, scoring only four times from nine attempts. Their right back Susann Muller put on a fine show with eight goals and Polish left back Karolina Szwed Orneborg netted six, but her compatriot Karolina Kudlacz was reduced to just one goal.
The two sides meet again in the reverse fixture in two weeks, after the international break, and there is little doubt that Leipzig will have to dig deep into their injury-hit resources if they are to get their flailing campaign back on track.
WHC Vardar SCBT (MKD) vs HC Podravka Vegeta (CRO) 39:26 (18:7)
With five points in the bag from their opening three games, Vardar stayed firmly on course to reach the next stage with a most emphatic victory against Podravka.
The expensively assembled outfit from Skopje, put together during the close-season when they signed 10 new players, is gelling seamlessly and growing stronger with each game.
Vardar’s performance against the Croatian title holders suggests they will be strong contenders when the business end of the competition starts, as a spot in the second group stage looks all but certain.
Ironically, Podravka led 1:0 and 2:1 early on before the home side, led by the unstoppable Andrea Lekic and Jovanka Radicevic, conjured a 14:1 run to romp ahead 15:3 in the closing stages of the first half.
Vardar’s physical and mobile defence opened up a barrage of fast breaks for the hosts, while Podravka could barely muster a meaningful shot on goal at the other end.
The visitors regained some of their composure in the closing stages of the first half and looked somewhat more credible opposition early in the second, when they reduced the deficit to 20:11.
But Vardar soon put their feet back on the gas pedal and the lead soared to 28:16. much to the delight of 3,500 fans in the Boris Trajkovski arena. A rapid exchange of goals in the closing stages amounted to a vastly entertaining and high-scoring encounter, with eight-goal Radicevic leading the charge for Vardar. Lekic and Maja Zebic scored seven each, while goalkeeper Amandine Leynaud racked up 16 saves. Dina Havić was Podravka’s top scorer with seven goals.
TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / cor
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