|02.03.2017, 15:52||◄ last page|
GROUP 2 PREVIEW: Györ can secure the top spot with a win against Esbjerg, while the title holders CSM must win against Krim to earn their quarter-final place
CSM and Krim tough it out for quarter-final berth
The second last round in Group 2 of the Women’s EHF Champions League Main Round features a number of crucial matches.
Foremost is the battle between RK Krim Mercator and CSM Bucuresti, both of whom are in contention for the fourth and final quarter-final berth. CSM’s loss against Larvik last week means that the current title defenders will have to take part in what could be a “winner takes it all” game against Krim.
On the other end of the table, Györi Audi ETO KC can secure top spot in the group with a win against bottom place Team Esbjerg, while Larvik and FC Midtjylland battle it out for second place.
CSM Bucuresti (ROU) vs RK Krim Mercator (SLO)
It has been a turbulent season for CSM Bucuresti, as the title holders are facing elimination from the competition if they fail to win at least one of their last two games, which are against Krim and Esbjerg.
Fortunately for the Romanian powerhouse, Krim have lost their previous four matches- therefore they seem to have a strong chance in this match on home court.
However, it is hard to forget the way CSM lost in Larvik last week- in retrospect this could be a decisive game in the Romanians’ season.
“We have to get over it and be better in the last games. We lacked discipline in defence and focus in attack and this cannot happen anymore,” said Isabelle Gullden, CSM’s centre back.
CSM did not concede more than 33 goals in any of the previous 25 games played in the Women’s EHF Champions League, but they totally collapsed in the second half against Larvik. The Norwegian side, now in second place of the group, will be nearly impossible for CSM to catch.
“Any mistake we make from now on will be punished by our opponents. We have to improve both our attack and our defence,” concluded CSM’s coach, Aurelian Rosca.
CSM can still place second in the group if they win all their games, but only if Larvik loses both of their games, against FCM and Györ, while FCM lose against Krim in the last round.
Any other sequence of results and the Romanian side will face a dreaded encounter against Vardar or FTC in the quarter-final, two of the in-form teams this season from Group 1.
However, Krim still have a chance to proceed in the competition, as the Slovenian side will leapfrog CSM in the standings with a win on Friday.
But Uros Bregar’s team has not won in the main round phase after losing Elizabeth Omoregie, the team’s top scorer, due to an injury.
The good news for Krim is that Omoregie made her comeback on Wednesday in a 25:13 thrashing against Zagorje, in the Slovenian derby.
“We are very happy about the return of Elizabeth, I wanted to see how she coped with such an important game, and although she looked out of breath at times, I think she played very good,” said Bregar.
FC Midtjylland (DEN) vs Larvik (NOR)
FC Midtjylland lost against their bitter rivals last Sunday, with a painful 22:21 defeat. Therefore, if they want to avoid playing against Vardar or FTC, the Danish side must win their last two remaining games, against Larvik and Krim.
This week also started with a bitter note- a 30:30 draw against TTH Holstebro in the Danish League, after Holstebro led 21:13 at half-time.
But it was not all that bad for FCM, as the Danish team have almost secured another Women’s EHF Champions League berth for the next season.
“It is good for us, we want to be a top European handball club and playing in the premier European competition means that we achieved that objective,” said Kristian Kristensen, FCM’s coach.
However, FCM are looking for a Women’s EHF FINAL4 berth this season too and two wins in their last two games could propel the Danish side to second place in the group.
Currently the team with the best home record this season, with five wins in five games, the Danish side is looking for a clean sweep in their home court matches with another positive result against Larvik.
But only a three-goal win would help FCM, as the Norwegian champions emerged winners from a difficult home game against the Danish side last month, 24:22.
FCM will surely rely again on their powerful back court, as Veronica Kristiansen and Stine Jörgensen are in top form, whereas Larvik can also rely on an in-form attack, who scored an average of 28 goals per game in the main round phase.
Larvik’s away form has been nothing short of spectacular this season, with only one defeat, against Krim, and draws against CSM Bucuresti and Györ in the main round.
The Norwegians also come in good spirits, after they won their domestic derby against Glassverket, 31:25, on Wednesday.
Györi Audi ETO KC (HUN) vs Team Esbjerg (DEN)
Another excellent season for Györ means that they are here to do business- they are eyeing the first place in the group.
A defeat against FCM and a hard-fought draw against Larvik were Györ’s only mishaps this season, as the Hungarian side is bracing to be the first team to earn the top spot in their group in the main round.
Top spot in the group means a lot in the Women’s EHF Champions League: an easier quarter-final with the second leg on their home court. With this motivation, Györ are overwhelming favorites against Esbjerg which could secure their lead in Group 2.
While their biggest opponents in Group 2 could face difficult opponents in the next phase, Györ are heading for a game against Metz or Thuringer, teams that earned only two wins between themselves in the main round phase.
Therefore, winning against Esbjerg is a top priority, even if the Danes are fighting for their lives in the competition. Another loss for them would mean the end of their hopes for a quarter-final berth.
The 23:22 win last week against FCM helped Esbjerg increase their chances, however the Danish side suffered a 32:28 loss against Randers in their domestic league on Wednesday.
But Esbjerg could be buoyed by news of Sandra Toft’s signing -the charismatic Danish goalkeeper will leave Larvik at the end of the season to join the Danish champions.
However, Györ are the big favorites, even if they did not manage to win their domestic derby against FTC on Wednesday.
The big clash ended in a draw, 25:25, but Györ’s coach, Martin Ambros, was happy with the result:
“The opponent made us pay for our mistakes, because we led by three goals in the final ten minutes, but we were not able to win.
“However, I am not disappointed and I am looking forward to a win against Esbjerg that will help us win our group in the Women’s EHF Champions League,” said Ambros.
TEXT: Adrian Costeiu/kc