May 7, 2023
Metz HB vs FTC Railcargo 26:33 (17:17)
by J. Schuetz
Before the Match
Prior to the second leg quarterfinal games in the Women’s European Champions League, for two of the eight remaining contenders, the FINAL4, in Budapest, at the beginning of June was presumed out of reach.
The decisive win of Vipers Kristiansand a week ago against Rapid Bucuresti (31:25) proved to be enough to keep the ambitious team from Romania at bay. Yet, the six-goal advantage Metz HB enjoyed after their 1st leg match against the 2023 Hungarian Cup winners, wasn’t the firewall needed to advance in the competition.
For Metz, Louise Vinter Burgaard (right-back) was not in the lineup, while Aniko Cirjenics-Kovacsics (center-back) was missing for FTC.
For the players, staff and supporters of the home team, this quarterfinal match turned into a gut wrenching experience. A surreal shift of momentum in the second half turned the game upside down and FTC ran away with a seven-goal victory – enough to secure the club’s first EHF Champions League FINAL4 appearance, in Budapest, June 3-4, 2023.
Halfway through the match in Metz, on Sunday afternoon, the French record champions appeared to be in control (17:17) and a third appearance at the pinnacle event in club handball looked certain.
Even a sub par performance of Hatadou Sako (15% save rate) in goal of Metz did little to inspire the squad of head coach, Gabor Elek. It would all change in the second half. Thirty more minutes of handball left losers, winners and the audience equally stunned while searching for words describing the dramatic and unreal turnaround of this match.
By minute 47, FTC, had equalized the six-goal advantage (21:27) and despite two time outs and a good performance of Camille Depuiset in goal, Metz was unable to push back.
In contrast, FTC’s goalkeeper Blanka Biro (45% saves) stepped up big and on the other side of the court, Emily Boelk and Angela Malestein made their presence felt.
Every minute that went by, it felt more and more energy was sucked out from the very team which had dominated the 2022/23 Champions League season, thus far. In offense, the tactical moves of Metz were all too predictable, while FTC increased their lead to 8 goals (56th minute), effectively putting the game out of reach, on this Sunday afternoon.
B. de Paula (4), S. Bouktit (8), T. Horacek (1), K. Jorgensen (4), L. Kanor (3), V. Maslova (4), C. Valentini (2)
E. Boelk (5), J. Harsfalvi (2), K. Klujber (5), A. Lekic (2), A. Malestein (8), G. Marton (3), A. Stolle (1), S. Zacsik (4), Z. Szucsanszki (2), A. Kisfalduy (1)
Post Game Reactions
Gabor Elek (head coach FTC)
“It’s very hard to find the right words now. After our six-goal loss at home a week ago, I did not think about this situation. Not even in my dreams.
“Metz have been the most balanced and best team in the 2022/23 Champions League, so far. We always had some big fights with them in the past, but today we had some luck on our side. In the second half we came back to life.
“Today, we are very proud and it’s an unbelievable feeling. Both teams would have deserved to be in the FINAL4, but unfortunately this cannot be.
“For now, I would like to thank all our supporters and my players.”
Emmanuel Mayonnade (head coach, Metz HB)
“First of all, congratulations to FTC. They played better today.
“After the first 30 minutes, I did not have a good feeling, as I did not recognize my team.
“In the last 15 minutes of the game, FTC’s goalkeeper showed a very strong performance, while we missed our chances.
“Everybody is sad now. I am sad, my team is sad. We are sad for our fans and the club and you (the journalists ed. ) as well.
“What can I say now – if we could play this match again, I would not make the same mistakes. Now, this is something for another time.
“I don’t know if I can watch the FINAL4.”
Blanka Biro (goalkeeper, FTC)
“It’s very difficult to say anything right now, aside from me being very proud of my team and myself.
“I would like to thank our supporters who were in the arena today and last weekend as well.
“For FTC a dream has come true – now it’s reality. I hope in June (at the FINAL4 ed.) we can play two good matches in front of a home crowd. ”
Kristina Jorgensen (Metz HB)
“I am very sad and disappointed that we played our worst game of the game of the season, today.
“Congratulations, to FTC who played a very good match with their experienced players. I would like to say thank you to our supporters and I am sad that we could not play a better game for them. There will be some long weeks ahead of us, but we will try to finish the season as good as we can.”
Angela Malestein (FTC)
“Once we increased our lead to two-goals early in the second half, we sensed some panic in the Metz team. That’s when we kept pushing and soon thereafter the match was wide open. In the end, I could not keep track of the score and if it was sufficiently high enough for us to advance (to the EHF FINAL4 ed.). It was crazy.
“I missed a couple of shots which I normally make, but we all kept fighting and that was most important today.”
Alicia Stolle (FTC)
“It still feels completely unreal. At some point, in the second half it felt like we were “in the game” and by the time we were leading by eight it was an incredible feeling.
“Today, Metz struggled in offense compared to last weekend. It seemed too much was dependent on what Bruna de Paula would do and sometimes it felt everybody else was waiting for her to get the game going.
“In contrast, we were a lot more active today and our goalkeeper stepped up big in the second half. Metz did all of this last weekend, but today we fought hard, kept believing in our chance and it paid off.”
Andrea Lekic (FTC)
“This was the craziest second half in my life. We stayed calm and in the end we played really smart handball. Our defense really functioned and it was so much better compared to last weekend, at Erd Arena.
“We focused on defending more aggressively against the center-back – our team effort was outstanding. In offense, we stayed calm and found some nice solutions. This was definitely one the biggest victories in my life.
“Today, we played very confident – that’s at least how I felt throughout the match. We had a good game plan and it worked.
“Now, I will enjoy playing in front of hopefully a sold out MVM Dome, in Budapest. That’s why you see tears in my eyes – it’s the first time FTC has reached the EHF Champions League FINAL4 and we all should enjoy this moment.”
Emily Boelk (FTC)
“The second half felt like being in a movie. It’s still unbelievable that we got it done. I think nobody really expected this outcome, especially in a game on the road. To recover a six-goal deficit was a very tall order.
“Yet, surprises do happen and today we played a clever match. We stayed calm even when we were leading by eight. Our defense stepped up in the second half in particular and Blanka Biro played phenomenal.
“Of course, we made mistakes as well, but we never gave up. That was important.
“Maybe today we benefitted from the simple fact of having a very experienced team.
“Once you reach this stage of the competition, you do think of what’s possible. I drive by the MVM Dome regularly and it’s a huge success to play the FINAL4 in front of a home crowd. We already wrote history for FTC – we will enjoy this moment and then we will see what will happen in Budapest.
“For now, I am just very, very happy and I really look forward to the final weekend.”
Luisa Schulze (Metz HB)
“It’s really difficult to find the right words at this moment. Nobody in our team expected what happened today.
“We were really focused and knew full well that we had to start this 2nd quarterfinal from zero once again.
“We had prepared very well for this match. At the half we were tied (17:17 ed.) but, what happened in the second half is just difficult to describe. In offense we were struggling and in defense we had our problems as well. Nothing worked as we were expecting it.
“I am at a loss of words, right now. Last weekend we played such a good game. We worked hard throughout the week preparing for today’s match as we knew that it wouldn’t be easy against FTC, even in front of our home crowd.
“As I said – it’s hard to find the right words and analyze all of it, right now. It’s a dream for every player to compete in the FINAL4, in Budapest, but we are not going. It’s very sad and it shows what is possible in handball.
“Still, we are in the final for the “Coupe de France” and that’s what we need to focus on.”