Metz end Vardar’s winning run, THC stay in the race
Following nine victories in as many Women’s EHF Champions League games, HC Vardar had their winning streak ended by runners-up Metz Handball on Sunday (24:22).
Later, Thüringer HC outplayed fellow German side SG BBM Bietigheim (34:21) to stay in contention for the quarter-finals.
Metz maintain their 100% home record this season
Vardar dropped their first points in the competition
Top scorer Iveta Luzumova (THC) added another 10 goals
Metz Handball (FRA) vs HC Vardar (MKD) 24:22 (10:10)
Almost a year ago, Metz shocked Vardar by winning 42:28 at home in the EHF Champions League Main Round.
While a prolific attack was the key to success back then, this time the French champions beat the Macedonian powerhouse mainly thanks to a rock-solid defence and great goalkeeping by Marina Rajcic, who made 19 saves.
Metz had a slow start as the guests seized the initiative and led 4:1. However, it did not take the home side long to improve their defence, which started to live up to its solid reputation.
After Vardar were up 9:7 in the 18th minute, they could not score for eight and a half minutes and went in front 10:9 before Alexandra Lacrabere drew level at 10:10.
Although the Macedonian team boast the most prolific attack in the competition, that was their only goal during the last 12 minutes of the first half.
For most of the second half, the rivals just exchanged goals, and Vardar were the first to create a two-goal gap (20:18) by the 50th minute.
However, Metz quickly turned the game around, enjoying a 4:0 run during the next four minutes. Rajcic was still superb in the goal, while Grace Zaadi did well in attack, scoring overall a third of Metz’s goals.
One minute from time, the home side’s win was still in danger as they led 23:22. Yet Laura Flippes scored her second goal of the game, and then Rajcic saved Andrea Lekic’s shot, so Metz jumped for joy in front of their loyal home crowd.
SG BBM Bietigheim (GER) vs Thüringer HC (GER) 21:34 (13:17)
It was already the fourth meeting of the two German sides in all competitions during this season, and Thüringer won the third derby overall and second in the continental top flight.
With four points, THC still harbour some hopes for a quarter-final berth — they are two points behind fourth-placed Buducnost, and they will host the side from Podgorica next week.
On the other hand, Bietigheim have lost even a mathematical chance to go through after their fifth defeat in a row.
The hosts, who still miss a number of key players, had an awful start as they were down 5:0 by the 6th minute before Antje Lauenroth finally scored for Bietigheim.
Gradually the home side improved their game and started to catch up and the four-goal gap at half-time (17:13) did not look unsurmountable.
However, THC looked stronger, and the competition’s top scorer Iveta Luzumova enjoyed another great game, finishing it with 10 goals. Her impact helped the visitors to feel comfortable after the break as they started to pull clear again.
With 10 minutes left until full time, the gap reached double digits (29:19) but THC held not back and increased the gap to 13 in the end.Author: Sergey Nikolaev / ew