Things we know after Round 2
Things we know after Round 2
Last week’s Women’s EHF Champions League action provided two new lessons, confirmed two considerations we suspected, and reinforced another we already knew.
One cannot be certain of anything as early as the second round; but the signs can be read and help to answer some questions – while raising others.
Efficiency does not compensate for leaky defence
This is especially the case if you are FTC coach Gabor Elek. His team’s patchy defence rightfully irritated the Hungarian tactician, despite the fact that they claimed their maiden win of the 2017/18 season.
Laura Van der Heijden terrorised Larvik, contributing 10 goals to help deal the Norwegian side their worst defeat ever in the competition.
"We could not provide the necessary defence. At least our attacks were good," said Elek.
That less-than-perfect defence may prove pivotal for FTC’s chances this season. The Budapest-based club were quarter-finalists two years in a row, but always found something lacking to make it to the final showdown in their hometown.
Is Elek onto the key ingredient here?
Metz lurk in the shadows, but are not alone
The French team is currently our top pick as the dark horse this season, with two wins from two matches so far.
Metz, who edged the winners Györ in the first leg of the quarter-final last season only to have their FINAL4 hopes smashed in the rematch, looked very hungry from the start of 2017/18 – and that is what we like to see.
The French team, led by Ana Gros and Xenia Smits, are in peak form and have emerged as leaders of favourable Group D, where they play two debutant teams and rebuilding Buducnost.
However, as much as they are the most dangerous outsiders right now, Metz are not alone.
Vipers Kristiansand have sharpened their teeth, dealing a lethal bite to Buducnost in Round 2. In tough Group 3, FTC await their chance, along with Thüringer HC and the rampant leading scorer of the competition, Iveta Luzumova (21 goals).
In Group B, no one is brave enough to write Rostov-Don off just yet.
A young team takes time to grow
If you already jumped on the Buducnost bandwagon following their win in Round 1, you might be a little premature. These are still early days for Dragan Adzic’s side.
As happens with youth, what you have in physical power, determination and spirit, is often cancelled out by a lack of consistency.
However, the 10-goal defeat against Vipers on Saturday is far from bad news – it is a reality check, which may prove more important for Buducnost than any win in this part of the season.
For the low-scoring team, the high percentage of goals (15 out of 19) from the back court are a positive. Milena Raicevic and Djurdjina Jaukovic faired well, while talented playmaker Cristina Laslo showed glimpses of her potential.
Right back Djurdjina Malovic is slowly returning to form, but on the other hand, the wings again recorded a poor conversion rate (4/12), which was a known issue for Buducnost from last season.
Dragan Adzic may have lost the battle, but he can still hope to win the war.
Young players are capable of big surprises
Buducnost’s regional rivals, RK Krim Mercator, understand what Buducnost are going through best. What seems to be just a phase for the Montenegrins is a modus vivendi for the Slovenian team.
The balance provided by the veterans at Krim is hardly a competitive edge, but a blank canvas allowing the youngsters to shine. One of their brightest talents, Tjasa Stanko, did just that, impressing with nine goals in a 27:26 win over Nykøbing.
One for the future? Certainly. Maybe even for now – just remember where you read it first.
Krim have claimed their first win of the season, but there is a long road ahead. They are building something big and it will take time.
Last season’s finalists lead the pack
HC Vardar and Györi Audi ETO KC are playing like there is no tomorrow. For last year’s finalists, the future is now. Their squads are at the peak of their abilities, and there are no excuses for failure.
Last week, we discussed what Vardar need to go all the way, but we intentionally neglected one thing – defeating Györ.
The frontrunners will probably not have a chance to meet until late in the competition, but they have certainly been imagining the moment in their heads from the first training session.
With two victories each and still some issues to address in their games, the hotly tipped favourites will do whatever it takes to make winning a habit.