February 20, 2016
Champions League (W) – Group 1
Larvik HK vs FTC Rail Cargo 37:31 (20:15)
Before the Match
“Next time when we meet, we will show them that we are better.” These were the words of Larvik’s head coach Tor Odvar Moen after his team’s loss against FTC Rail Cargo five weeks ago. At the time he was missing Danish goalkeeper Sandra Toft aside from long-term absentees Wojtas and Riegelhuth Koren. Little did he know that by the time the two squads would meet again at Larvik’s “Bolligmappa” arena, his injury list would have grown even longer. Ahead of the clash with the Hungarian champion on Saturday evening, Larvik had to do without Amanda Kurtovic and Thea Mork, who were not fit to play, whereas Moen’s colleague, Gabor Elek, had his best crew on deck.
Tor Odvar Moen kept his word – his team showed up much stronger this time around, even though Larvik’s prospects did not look quite as good on paper, as mentioned before. FTC, on the other side, was lacking aggression when playing defense and in offense, Nerea Pena was on her own for most of the time. In the end, Larvik booked the ticket to the Champions League quarter-final and is now holding all the cards to secure the important second place in Group 1.
Nerea Pena & Co. were able to hang with Norway’s best club for 15 minutes before Larvik began to pull away. One reason was a brilliant performance of left-back Tine Stange, who continued where she left off in the game against Vipers Kristiansand earlier in the week, in Norway’s “Grundig” league. Simply put, Stange was unstoppable – scoring from distance or breaking through FTC’s defense formation. In addition, Gro Hammerseng-Edin and her teammates were able to keep the pace of the game high throughout the half, not allowing FTC’s defense specialists (Klara Szekeres and Rea Meszaros) to settle in. Zita Szucsanszki had her hands full dealing with a very mobile Nora Mork and Larvik’s keeper, Alma Grizovic, showed up in top form.
On the other end of the pitch FTC’s playmaker Nerea Pena was left to her own devices since neither Szandra Zacsik nor Zita Szucsanszki were able to contribute in a meaningful way. The two backcourt players combined for a total of one goal – not enough to cause Larvik’s well-positioned defense any trouble. Within ten minutes coach Moen’s squad established a five-goal lead – an advantage that Larvik would not surrender anymore.
After the break, the Serbian national keeper, Katarina Tomasevic, stayed in goal – she had replaced FTC’s Melinda Szikora late in the first half – without being able to change the dynamics of the match. Following a couple of missed penalty shots by Nora Mork, Mari Molid assumed the responsibility, scoring on all of her four attempts. Larvik extended the lead to six-goals before FTC entered their best phase in the second half. By minute 44, FTC had cut the deficit to four and coach Moen took a well-placed timeout. Larvik regrouped before increasing the goal differential to seven. The game was effectively decided and direct coverage of Nora Mork on the one hand and Nerea Pena on the other side did nothing to change the outcome anymore.
Player of the Match
The official award went to Larvik’s goalkeeper, Alma Grisovic. Very much deserved, especially given her strong performance during the second half.
The splendid output of Tine Stange would have qualified as easily for receiving the honors. What a fantastic game of Larvik’s left-back after coming back from two times rapturing her cruciate ligaments in the same knee in the past few years. In the fall of 2015 she had taken her first steps back on the pitch when playing against Krim; continuing all the way to this remarkable result against FTC Rail Cargo – willpower at it’s best. Hat’s off to Tine Stange.
Highlight of the Match
No doubt, the creative highlight of the game was provided courtesy of Sanna Solberg, Larvik’s left-winger. In the 42 minute she successfully converted a “not-so-well” placed pass from Karoline Dyhre-Breivang, with her left (non-shooting) arm, Kempa style.
Coach of the Match
Tor Odvar Moen made no mistakes. Even with the two wing-players missing and a shortened bench, his team was well prepared and dictated the rhythm of the game from the very first minute. When FTC was catching up in the second half, his timeout came at the right time. Well done.
Orleans will be the last main round destination for Gro Hammerseng-Edin & Co. Following the loss of Fleury Loiret against Rostov Don earlier in the day and Larvik’s victory versus FTC, the French champion has dropped out of the race for a quarter-final berth. On February 28th, coach Bougeant’s team will play for honor and pride, while Larvik is looking to claim the number two spot in Group 1 and avenge a humiliating defeat at home, some weeks ago.
/ J. Schutz