Krim surprises again

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Vardar and FTC continue head-to-head race

Vardar Skopje and FTC, who drew in the first round, continue their head-to-head race at the top of Group B of the Women´s Champions League after wins against Astrakhanochka and HC Leipzig.

In Group C, Krim from Ljubljana were close to surrendering a 10-goal half time lead against Savehof, while Rostov-Don booked their first victory in this Champions League season, defeating FC Midtjylland.

By Peter Bruun

 Group B

 Astrakhanochka vs HC Vardar 26:31 (13:14)

Still without injured Andrea Lekic and despite losing Barbara Lazovic and Mayssa Pessoa to injury Vardar were able to book a clear win in the Sportcomplex of Astrakhan on Saturday afternoon.

This time, Vardar had their sport director Eduard Koksharov as wing-man to interim coach Ace Stankovski, but at the start, it did not matter who Vardar had on the bench.

The visitors were in complete control, leading 4:0, 5:1 and 6:2 – but then they lost the grip.

Astrakhanocka managed to equalize at 6:6, and for the rest of the first half, the home team stayed a goal or two behind their opponents.

The Russian champion also managed to keep the game close at the beginning of the second half, but Vardar´s deeper squad and individual quality paid off eventually.

A dramatic moment occurred, when Barbara Lazovic had to leave the court with an injury to her right eye with 14 minutes left. This could have been a handicap on an afternoon, when Vardar´s other right-back, Alexandra Lacrabere, did not have one of the best days, to say the least.

Yet, Vardar had plenty of players to pick it up and decide the match.  And it did not shake them either, when Mayssa Pessoa had to leave her goal with a hand injury.

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FTC vs HC Leipzig 26:22 (12:11)

Leipzig were missing right-back Tamara Bösch – she will be missing her for the rest of the season.

The Austrian international tore her anterior cruciate ligament in a Bundesliga match during the week, but in her absence, Anne Hubinger was effective from the get go.

Leipzig listed only 11 players on their team sheet but they were able to build a quick lead at 3:1 and 4:2. In fact, they managed to keep the match open throughout the first half, never allowing FTC to get ahead by more than two goals.

In the second half, it became more difficult for the visitors from Germany to keep up with their opponents.

Coach Normann Rentsch tried playing seven-against-six for a while, but the tactical measure was not enough to prevent the home team from building a five-goal advantage several times.

It did not help Leipzig either, when Anne Hubinger, who had scored five goals in the first 30 minutes, received a red card because of her third two-minute suspension, midway into the second half.

Thereafter, FTC were able to maintain a four to five goal lead for the rest of the game.  The Hungarian club continues a head-to-head race with Vardar, as both team have five points after their first three matches.

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Group C

Rostov-Don vs FC Midtjylland 26:20 (13:12)

Finally, in their third attempt, Rostov-Don scored their first victory in the 2016/17 Champions League.  But Jan Leslie and his crew still need to convince us that they are real contenders for the title this year.

There appears to be quite some work to do for Leslie in making his many stars click as a team.

FC Midtjylland fought well and managed to keep in striking distance during the first half – they even had a few one goal leads.

After the break, however, Rostov-Don increased pace and physical effort at both ends of the court and the Danish visitors began having trouble.

Still, even when Rostov-Don went up by five goals, Midtjylland had several opportunities to get back into the game, but a series of fine saves by Katrine Lunde in Rostov’s goal prevented a Danish comeback.

Both teams sit on two points before meeting again in Ikast, next Sunday.

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Group D 

RK Krim Mecator vs IK Savehof 32:29 (20:10)

After Krim had lost their first match of this season – 35:25 in Esbjerg – I expressed doubt if they would be able to get any points in the Champions League at all.  Now, the team from Slovenia has four.

Saturday afternoon, they landed their second home win in succession, but almost erasing a 10-goal advantage in the second half.

In the first 30 minutes, the crew from Slovenia simply steamrolled Sweden’s record champion, but in the second half the hosts gave it all back – well almost.

It took Savehof less than eight minutes to catch up with half of the 10-goal deficit, and it only took them a couple of more minutes to get as close as 23:19.

With 30 seconds to play, Savehof had further reduced Krim’s lead (31:29) but it was too little too late, to create real excitement.

While Krim doubled their points from two to four, Savehof have not been able to repeat their success from round one, when they won 25:22 at Larvik.

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