DAY REVIEW: France’s Nantes Loire Atlantique and Brest Bretagne Handball started the Women's EHF Cup group stage with confident victories in Germany, while the Russian teams Kuban and Rostov-Don beat their Hungarian opponents at home
French teams seal first group stage victories in Germany
The first seven games in the inaugural group stage of the new-look Women’s EHF Cup took place on Saturday, with IK Savehof and Randers HK due to complete the Round 1 programme on Sunday.
There are two French teams in the group stage, and they both got off to a great start at away games in Germany. Nantes Loire Atlantique HB beat Vfl Oldenburg 37:30, and Brest Bretagne Handball smashed HC Leipzig 34:15.
Two of the three Russian clubs, namely Rostov-Don and Kuban, also enjoyed a good start, both beating their opponents from Hungary, although Handball Club Lada were defeated in Denmark.
Vfl Oldenburg (GER) vs Nantes Loire Atlantique HB (FRA) 30:37 (11:19)
In the three Women's EHF Cup qualification rounds, Nantes won six games out of six, and have now added one more in the group round. The French side played better than Oldenburg both in attack and defence, which helped them to a clear victory.
Five Nantes players scored at least five goals, including German international Isabell Klein. The visitors dominated the whole game as Oldenburg players made too many mistakes in a high-speed match.
In the 25th minute the score was 10:14, yet by half time Nantes had an eight-goal lead. In the second half, Oldenburg head coach Leszek Krowicki changed the defence to 4-2. Although his team started to create more chances, they failed to capitalise and Nantes took the win.
HC Leipzig (GER) vs Brest Bretagne Handball (FRA) 15:34 (6:13)
German side HC Leipzig played in the Women's EHF Champions League last autumn and narrowly missed promotion to the Main Round, but are looking vulnerable in the Women's EHF Cup.
One of the reason is the epidemic of long-term injuries which has ruled out a number of team leaders. In their absence, head coach Norman Rentsch has had to call up a few junior players.
In their opening match against Brest Bretagne Leipzig were in the lead just once during the whole game, with Saskia Lang opening the score. After that, the hosts could not match their opponents.
The half-time score of 6:13 looked decent compared to 10:25 midway through the second half. Brest players, enjoying their maiden European season, just did not want to stop and finally clinched the biggest victory of the day in the Women's EHF Cup.
Kuban (RUS) vs Alba Fehérvár KC (HUN) 31:26 (18:8)
With Russian head coach Evgeni Trefilov and four players from the Russian national team, Kuban were the favourites for their starting match against Alba Fehérvár with the score hiding a comprehensive victory.
It was a quick and dynamic game, and while the hosts struggled somewhat in the opening minutes, they soon improved their defence. Viktoria Kalinina was excellent in goal.
In the 17th minute, Kuban took a four-goal for the first time (10:6) and at half time, their advantage reached double digits (18:8).
Alba Fehérvár looked like a bunch of individuals rather than a united team, yet the visitors managed to improve their game in the second half. Kuban’s complacency also played a role, but the gap was too big to overcome, and the Russian side earned the win.
Rostov-Don (RUS) vs ÉRD HC (HUN) 27:24 (16:11)
The Russian runners-up Rostov-Don, sensationally eliminated from the Women's EHF Champions League, are considered by many to be the favourites for the Women's EHF Cup.
Yet Group C is arguably the toughest in the group phase, and the first game against ÉRD HC showed that life will not be easy for Rostov.
The hosts were in the lead from the opening minutes, and the 16:11 score at half time looked optimistic for them. One of the highlights was Alexandrina Cabral Barbosa’s beautiful goal scored from Rostov’s own half.
ÉRD pushed towards the goal after the break, but Rostov played well in counterattacks and increased their lead to 24:17 in the 45th minute. However, they had something to worry about in the last quarter of the game.
Led by Katarina Krpez Slezak, the game's top scorer with nine goals, the Hungarian team closed the gap to just three goals. But Rostov had done enough in the earlier part of the game to take their first group stage win.
"It was an interesting game and we played against worthy opponent. Erd played nicely till the end of the game. At the beginning of the second half we did not show a good performance, but managed to win and showed our power and potential. We had some problems in defence, but we know what to do now," Tatyana Bereznyak, interim coach of Rostov-Don said.
Head coach of Érd Edina Szabó commented: "It was a very fast and interesting game. We are happy that that we were able to get back to the game and scored many goals in the second half. We showed a fighting spirit. We already faced Rostov-Don two years ago. This team changed pretty much. Now Rostov-Don has more stable scheme of the game. And now our opponent has faster players."
SG BBM Bietigheim (GER) vs Byasen Trondheim (NOR) 39:33 (19:18)
While Oldenburg and Leipzig both lost their games, Bietigheim became the only German team on the day to win at home. In a game against Norway's Byasen, the Bundesliga leader scored 39 goals – more than any other team in the Women's EHF Cup on Saturday.
Byasen may be the outsiders in the strong Group C, yet they are also a force to be reckoned with. At half time, the Norwegian side were down by just one goal, which suggested a tight fight in the second half.
However, Bietigheim showed more class and they had an upper hand in the game. Susann Muller was the hero of the day, having scored 10 goals.
It was hard for Byasen to hold their opponents back, and the final result of 39:33 in Bietigheim's favour was a fair summary of the match.
Glassverket (NOR) vs TuS Metzingen (GER) 16:22 (8:9)
Having lost six games out of six in the EHF Champions League group phase, Glassverket began their campaign in the EHF Cup with yet another defeat.
Both sides struggled in attack during the game, yet Metzingen did better. Glassverket missed too many chances and were not able to score at all until the ninth minute.
But the visitors also made many mistakes, and Glassverket were in front 8:7 by the 25th minute. However, the German team seized an upper hand just before the break and seized the lead.
The start of the second half was another nightmare for Glassverket with just one goal before the 40th minute. Metzingen found the net six times in the same period. By then it was too late for the host team, although their goalkeeper Runo Gundbraten played a good game.
"Today's match was not the kind of start for the group phase that we dreamed of. We gave to much room to the German team and let them do as they wanted from six metres," Grundbraten said.
"The match started fine for our team, but after a while Glassverket came back in the match, mostly because of their goalkeeper. Luckily we got some fast break goals that putted us back in control over the match. We gained two very important points and a good start of this years EHF Cup," Metzingen's Anna Loerper said.
Unlike country-fellows Rostov-Don and Kuban, Handball Club Lada started the Women's EHF Cup group phase away from home. In the third qualification round, Lada beat Viborg twice, but now Danish side NFH-Nykøbing Falster Handboldclub were too strong for the Russian team.
Both teams created many chances, yet the hosts were much more efficient. Lada heavily relied on Olympic champion Daria Dmitrieva, but the Russian international could not find her game for a long time.
Nykøbing led by two to three goals during most of the first half and 18:14 was a fair result at half time.
After the break, the Danish side's advantage became more evident. Lada’s defence could not find an opening against Johanna Westberg and Mette Gravholt, and Nykøbing built on their advantage minute after minute, comfortably winning by 12 goals in the end.
TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / jh
TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev/jh
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