Martin hopes for sweet swansong at CSM

EHF / Adrian Costeiu

It has been six years since CSM Bucuresti won the EHF Champions League Women title in 2015/16 – their maiden season – and four years since they last made the EHF FINAL4 in Budapest.

With a star-studded lineup at their disposal, including the top goal scorer of the competition, Cristina Neagu, CSM have been eyeing a return to the business end of the EHF Champions League for some time, but have been left emptyhanded.

The toughest blow came in last season’s quarter-finals, when they won the first leg against CSKA, 32:27, only to be shocked in the second game, which they lost 24:19.

“I cannot say much about those two games, as I was sidelined with a Covid-19 infection. But I have seen the girls after the quarter-finals, and the mood was certainly low. My teammates were all ruing the missed chances,” says right wing Carmen Martin.

Martin, 34, is one of the two players winning the EHF Champions League with CSM six seasons ago that are still on the roster, alongside Croatian goalkeeper Jelena Grubisic.

The experienced Spanish right wing cites that superb 29:26 win against Györi Audi ETO KC as her highlight from two stints at CSM, where she played between 2014 and 2017 and again from 2019.

“There are plenty of superb memories at CSM, a professional team that constantly fought for winning the biggest trophies and had a lot of superb players. It has been nothing short of amazing,” adds Martin.

20220427 Carmen Martin Full Width

But as all good things come to an end, this will be the last season for the captain of the Spain women’s senior national team in the Romanian capital, as she is moving to IK Sävehof.

“I would like nothing more than to end my time at CSM with another big win in the EHF Champions League Women. However, nothing can match the season in which we made our debut and sealed the title.

“We were the biggest underdogs in the EHF FINAL4 and really had nothing to lose. But we played with all our heart, we did everything we could to make it happen and we shocked everybody,” adds Martin.

Yet for CSM to qualify for the EHF FINAL4 for the first time in four years, they will have to win on aggregate in a crunch doubleheader against Team Esbjerg, the team who won Group 1 and are considered one of the favourites for the trophy.

A successful summer on the transfer market, which saw Norwegian left back Henny Reistad, the All-star left back at the 2021 IHF Women’s World Championship and the MVP of the EHF FINAL4 2021, join the side propelled Esbjerg into the contender status.

However, CSM have already faced the Danish side and lost by a single goal in the first game of the season, 22:21, before drawing the home match: 29:29. Therefore, while Esbjerg were eight points ahead of the Romanian powerhouse at the end of the group phase, the gap between the two rivals might be closer.

20220427 Carmen Martin Quote
There are plenty of superb memories at CSM, a professional team that constantly fought for winning the biggest trophies and had a lot of superb players. It has been nothing short of amazing.
Carmen Martin
CSM Bucuresti right wing

The first leg, broadcasted on Sunday at 16:00 CEST on EHFTV, is the Match of the Week in the quarter-finals of the EHF Champions League Women, as CSM try to remain undefeated at home against Esbjerg.

“I am very excited to play this match, the EHF Champions League Women is the best competition in women’s handball. All of us want to win these two games and make it to the EHF FINAL 4.”

“But we must take into account that we are the underdogs: Esbjerg had an amazing season, they lost only one game and won against every team they played against until now. They are a force to be reckoned with, especially at home.”

The main issue plaguing CSM was their lack of focus in crucial moments. Three of their losses came by a single goal.

More crucially, Brest Bretagne Handball, FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria and Team Esbjerg all scored the winning goals in the last second of the games, forcing CSM to reconsider their approach to the crunch moments of the matches.

“It really made us focus more. But, looking on the bright side, it means that we have the grit and strength to take teams all the way. Therefore, we are also doing something right,” concludes Martin.

Whether those right things will be enhanced or not, it will probably make all the difference in the world for the Romanian champions. But CSM really know a thing or two about playing as the underdogs for a big title.

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