Champions League (W) – Round 3
Apart from FC Midtjylland´s 24:21 success against Rostov-Don last weekend, we have not seen any real surprises in the Women´s EHF Champions League.
It all changed this weekend when Nykøbing Falster delivered a sensational result versus CSM Bucuresti and pointless Bietigheim surprised Vipers Kristiansand.
Vardar and Metz are the only undefeated teams at this point in the tournament.
By Peter Bruun
Match of Round 3
Rostov-Don vs Györ, Group B – 23:22 (12:12)
After their 24:21 defeat away against FC Midtjylland last Saturday, Rostov-Don must have felt a sense of urgency ahead of the match with the Hungarian champion.
Györ arrived with problems as well, as coach Ambros Martín´s injury list had grown even longer before the match in Russia.
On Wednesday, playmaker and left back, Nycke Groot, sustained a muscle injury in her right thigh during training and will be sidelined for about five weeks.
Groot´s bad luck along with all the other injuries reduced Martín´s back-court options to Nora Mørk, Stine Bredal Oftedal and Eduarda Amorim, while Anita Görbicz did her duties on left wing, once again.
Still, these problems did not stop Györ from taking the initiative, leading most of the time in the first half. By the time, the teams changed sides Rostov must have felt happy with the draw.
In the second half, however, it was the home team that dominated, taking several three-goal leads at 18:15, 20:17 and 21:18 – the host was heading towards victory.
But a tactically clever and hard fighting Györ came back once again, and with three and a half minutes left, Bernadett Bodi equalized at 22:22.
Yet, 25 seconds later, Rostov´s best player on that day, Ana Paula Rodrigues, handed her team the final lead, scoring the last goal of the match.
The finish was chaotic, though.
With 37 seconds left, Nora Mørk´s hasty attempt for the equalizer went wide, and Rostov had the ball again, but received a quick call indicating passive play with 15 seconds left on the game clock.
Not enough time – Györ did not find a decent gap in Rostov’s defense anymore and a last ditch effort from Amorim did not cause much trouble for Mayssa Pessoa in goal.
The result made Group B even more interesting, with Györ, Rostov and FC Midtjylland all on four points halfway through the group matches.
Wheraeas, Champions League debutants, Brest Bretagne’s, chances for reaching the main round are fading quickly
Thriller of Round 3
Brest Bretagne vs FC Midtjylland, Group B – 22:23 (10:12)
This match did not impress because of its quality. In fact, quality was lacking for most of the time. But the dramatic ending made up for much as long as you were rooting for the Danish team.
With time expired, Midtjylland’s right back, Louise Burgaard, scored on her last free-throw, a situation reminiscent of her compatriot, Mikkel Hansen.
The Danish visitors, who were on top of the game for most of the 60 minutes, could celebrate both points, courtesy of Burgaard’s spectacular finish.
The victory was deserved, simply because Midtjylland was the team that performed slightly better, in a match that saw a plethora of technical mistakes and ill-advised shots on both sides.
Thanks to a better defense, another outstanding effort of goalkeeper, Sabine Englert, and the two sharp-shooters – Louise Burgaard and Veronica Kristiansen – Midtjylland were leading most of the time.
Still, Brest never gave up and managed to catch up in the hectic minutes towards the end of the battle. The hosts even awarded themselves with a one-goal lead but were unable to hold on to it.
It all ended with Burgaard´s crazy free-throw goal, her 10th in a match, where Veronica Kristiansen and Burgaard combined for 17 of Midtjylland´s 23 goals.
Still, this Midtjylland team is not easy to figure out.
Last Saturday, they delivered an impressive performance, while winning 24:21 at home against Rostov-Don.
On Tuesday, they lost by a devastating margin (27:16) on the road against Silkeborg-Voel in the Danish league and on Friday the team booked this crucial win in Western France.
Nevertheless, with four points after three matches, Midtjylland are extremely close to qualifying for the main round.
Surprise of Round 3
Nykøbing Falster vs CSM Bucuresti 25:22 (13:14)
The outcome of this game was not just a surprise – it was a sensation.
Probably no one – not even the most die-hard Nykøbing fan – would have imagined the Danish champions defeating mighty CSM.
Yet, Nykøbing, who are struggling in the Danish league, performed nothing short of a handball miracle.
Fantastic will power a healthy fighting spirit combined with tactical cleverness and with a brilliant Kristina Kristiansen as a playmaker, the Danes managed to keep the match open all the way. And, in an astonishing finish they scored the last four goals of the game.
Cristina Neagu was a far cry of her usual self – to say the least – still, it was no excuse for CSM losing against the Danish underdog.
Resurgence of Round 3
Vipers Kristiansand vs SG BBM Bietigheim 24:29 (8:16)
It was not quite as big a surprise as the Nykøbing victory; still Bietigheim displayed a startling performance, winning the duel of the debutants, in Kristiansand.
A week ago, Vipers had just demolished Buducnost by 10 goals, the very same club that had beaten Bietigheim by eight in the opening round of the 2017/18 Champions League campaign.
But this Sunday, Bietigheim were in control of the match during the entire 60 minutes at the Aquarama, mainly because of a myriad of Vipers mistakes.
Bietigheim were ruthless punishing the errors, while Dutch international, Tess Wester, provided the necessary back-up on the other end of the court. It was only logical, that the German champions´ recorded their first Champions League win in the club’s history.
Players of Round 3
#1 – Louise Burgaard
Louise Burgaard has to be mentioned once again.
Not only because of that amazing last shot after the buzzer, but also because it was her 10th goal in a match, where she and Veronica Kristiansen were the only real threats to Brest’s defense.
While Kristiansen scored seven times, Burgaard takes the award because her 10th goal was the cherry on top of the icing of the cake.
# 2 – Ana Paula Rodrigues
Scoring seven goals on nine attempts, including the one that turned out to be the winning goal, the 30-year-old center- back played a crucial part in Rostov-Don´s 23:22 win against Györ.
In attack she was relentless, on top of guiding Rostov’s offense in an intense, “must-win” match.
# 3 – Kristina Kristiansen
Kristina Kristiansen´s performance was not without mistakes, but aside from scoring six goals in as many attempts, “Mulle” was a great organizer of Nykøbing´s offense, in a memorable performance against CSM Bucuresti.
Quote of Round 3
“That was one of the moments that reminds me, why I play handball.”
FC Midtjylland match winner, Louise Burgaard, talking to Danish TV station TV3 Sport after scoring her winning goal following a direct free-throw against Brest.
Larvik vs Vardar 19:31 (9:16)
Thüringer HC vs FTC 25:29 (15:14)
Metz vs. Buducnost 27:23 (13:10)
There’s one match still waiting to be played, before the first half of the group matches will be concluded. On Wednesday evening, Polish champions, Vistal Gdynia, will be receiving Krim Ljuljana in Group A.
Apart from the Wednesday match between Gdynia and Krim, the Women´s Champions League is now taking a pause for two weeks, before the second half of the group matches will begin in reverse order of this weekend´s games.