SEASON REVIEW: All four European Cup competitions for women were decided within a week, with the joy of continental success shared by clubs in Hungary, Denmark, Russia and Sweden
Four titles for four nations
The increasing versatility of women’s handball in Europe was emphasised once again in the 2013/14 season.
This was proved in the Women´s EHF Champions League which ended in the inaugural MVM EHF FINAL4, and also in a number of exciting and interesting matches in the three other European Cup competitions for women.
The first MVM EHF FINAL4 was welcomed not only by the four clubs who ended up qualifying for the event, but also in all corners of Handball Europe.
And the event fulfilled all expectations. When it came to attendances, media interest and the quality of handball which was shown on 3 and 4 May in the László Papp Budapest Sportaréna, no handball heart could really ask for more.
Two newcomers and two former Women’s EHF Champions League winners qualified for the historic event.
Having been on the brink of elimination at the middle of the main round, FC Midtjylland managed to reach the top four in the tournament for the first time since the change of name from Ikast, to be the first Danish team in four years to get this far.
Skopje was represented in the semi-finals and the finals before, but it was Kometal who represented the Macedonian capital, from where the new power-house WHC Vardar SCBT emerged.
In the semi-finals, those two newcomers were up against the winners from the past two years, defending champions Györi Audi ETO KC and 2012 winners Buducnost.
Györ opened the event by defeating FC Midtjylland 29:26, before Buducnost needed extra-time to beat Vardar 22:20.
The following day Györ lifted the trophy for the second year in succession after having overcome Buducnost 27:21 in the final. Before that, Vardar secured third place through a 34:31 win against FC Midtjylland.
“I think of this as a team effort. It doesn’t matter how many shots I stopped, we all played hard for this and deserved the win. If somebody from our team plays well, then everybody should take credit for it,” Györ goalkeeper Katrine Lunde said after the final.
Two early decisions and one thriller
There was more than just the one women’s event which offered exciting matches and thrilling decisions. This also applied to the other three European Cup competitions.
Having won the EHF Champions League and the EHF Cup three times each, Viborg HK took their first Cup Winners´ Cup title, as they defeated an old acquaintance from their Champions League days, Zvezda Zvenigorod, 55:45 in the final.
Viborg gave themselves a fantastic boost by winning the first leg 31:22 at home, and even though Zvezda went 9:4 up in the return match, the Danish team came back and won that match as well, 24:23.
“We were under pressure from the start and went 9:4 behind, but we came back fine and reduced it to 13:11 before half-time. We had a good break and a fine talk about things, and then all of a sudden we had to chance to also win in Zvenigorod. That was really cool,” Viborg coach Christian Dalmose said after the triumph became fact.
The Women’s EHF Cup was also a Russian-Danish encounter, in this case with the Russian team coming out on top.
Lada more or less decided the matter in the first half of the first match against Team Esbjerg. Lada were leading 17:6 in their home game, and this 11-goal difference was maintained more or less throughout the remaining three periods of the tie.
After a 36:25 home win, Lada could celebrate their second EHF Cup triumph in history through a 32:32 draw in Esbjerg.
While the finals of the Cup Winners´ Cup and the EHF Cup been more or less decided after the first leg, the final of the Challenge Cup became a thriller.
After a 21:19 defeat at home against Issy Paris Hand, H 65 Höör from Sweden went to France to beat the odds and took the title through away goals after a 23:21 win.
“I had the feeling we could do something here, but actually making it is beyond words,” Höör coach Niklas Harris said after the club’s first crown in only their second season competing in Europe.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor
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