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14.02.2017, 09:10◄ last page     


TALKING POINTS: Three teams have qualified for the knockout stage and five have maintained their unbeaten run in the main round
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Five talking points after the weekend’s WCL action

It’s half-time in the Women’s EHF Champions League Main Round and it speaks volumes about the balance of Europe’s elite women’s competition that three games from the end of the second phase only three teams, Györ, Vardar and Ferencvaros have sealed their spots in the quarter-finals.

Let’s see the five most important stories of the past weekend.

Goalies vs Powerhouses 2:0

It has not even been a year since Buducnost and Györ met in the Champions League semi-final so one would not expect the two powerhouses to struggle in a main round home match, let alone see both side score a shameful nine goals in their first halves.

The reason for their struggle is the same: the opposition goalkeeper. Blanka Biro (Ferencvaros) and Sandra Toft (Larvik (photo)) both put in breathtaking performances against the best sharpshooters of the game.

Their games ended on a different note as Ferencváros (quite unexpectedly) ran through Buducnost in Podgorica (the margin grew to double digits even before the half-time whistle was blown), while Györ needed a miraculous last two and a half minutes to come back from three goals behind and snatch a draw against Larvik.

Spotless runs

After round three main round matches five teams managed to maintain their unbeaten status, however, only two remain spotless: Vardar and Ferencvaros. It is no miracle that these two are the ones (plus Györ) who have already sealed their places in the quarter-finals.

The Macedonian outfit is on a particularly spectacular run as they have won every single Champions League game this season apart from the first round of the Group Phase, when Ferencváros snatched a point in Skopje. That’s eight in a row.

FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria may have suffered a heavy home defeat against Vardar but thanks to their huge away win in Podgorica they maintained their 100 per cent run in the main round and are also through to the quarter-finals.

Györ spoiled their perfect run with the draw against Larvik (who have drawn twice in three games in the main round), and title holders CSM Bucuresti are also unbeaten.

Two editions of last minute drama

Larvik’s trip to Györ and Thüringer’s home match against Vardar shaped differently but both ended in epic fights that were only settled in the last seconds.

Larvik were ahead in Györ for most of the game but the tie never seemed to be out of reach for Györ, while Vardar took control of the game early on and built a massive lead that perhaps set them at ease a tad too early.

The home teams stubbornly refused to give up in a similarly difficult situation: two and a half minutes from the final whistle Györ were trailing Larvik by three goals while Thüringer, coming from way behind, were putting pressure on Vardar.

Györ managed to make good use of some Norwegian errors and a last second shot from Amanda Kurtovic was saved thus the game ended in a draw.

Thüringer also had a chance to salvage a point but their last attack ended in a turnover as Meike Schmelzer failed to catch a potentially golden pass and Vardar found the back of the empty net to make it take a two-goal victory.

Quarter-finals shaping up

While there are no eliminated teams just yet, some already need a miracle to advance. Astrakhanochka would have to win all three upcoming games while they need both Thüringer and Metz to lose all their remaining games (with the Russian team beating their French rivals by more than 19 goals).

Thüringer have a better chance to leapfrog Metz in fourth as they are trailing the French by two points but the head-to-head record favours Metz (28:25, 24:32) so German hopes are hanging by a thread.

Group 2 is a lot more balanced as only Györ have qualified for the knockout round (CSM and Krim can each mathematicaly catch the Hungarian team in the standings but not both). Esbjerg and Ljubljana are in difficult situations since both failed to record a victory in the main round but not all is lost for them.

Outstanding performances

Apart from the two aforementioned goalkeepers, Blanka Biro and Sandra Toft and their excellent individual perfomances, both Andrea Penezic and Amanda Kurtovic reached double-digits in goals (10 each), while Andrea Lekic (8) also played a vital role in Vardar’s away victory. Katarina Bulatovic and Zita Szucsanszki both found the back of the net seven times with the Hungarian centre back emerging as winner in the Podgorica clash.


 


TEXT: Bence Martha

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