Mørk & Mørk
October 27, 2015
In the second round of the 2015/16 Women’s Champions League, Larvik bounced back with a convincing performance in Baia Mare. Nine goals from each of the Mørk twins, Nora and Thea, assured Larvik of much needed points. Only 48 hrs. later Denmark’s FC Midtjylland celebrated a surprise victory against the All-Star team from Gyor. Isabelle Gullden enjoyed a victorious “Home Coming”, in Orleans, 2,300 spectators were treated to a “Spanish Fiesta”, while Buducnost, Vardar, Rostov-Don and Thueringer HC were all hitting soft targets. Read all about two thrilling “Matches of the Week” courtesy of Peter Bruun and the other highlights of game day number two.
By Peter Bruun
Match of the Week #1 – Group A, HCM Baia Mare vs Larvik HK 29:31 (14:19)
Before the Match
Baia Mare had opened the group phase campaign with a 33:27 road-win against Krim Mercator, although the success in Slovenia was not as convincing as the final score indicated.
Larvik on the other hand, had suffered a stunning loss (27:21) at home to the Champions League debutant Rostov-Don. Making matters worse, new head coach Tor Odvar Moen had to travel to Romania without the same four players he was missing against the Russian champions. Given the fact that Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth Koren, Alina Wojtas and Tine Stange will all be missed for the long-term, Anja Hammerseng-Edin’s lingering injury hit the team particularly hard.
Baia Mare got off to the better start and Larvik seemed to be suffering from the same problems as they did in their previous Champions League game.
Allison Pineau & Co. had the “impertinence” of scoring on their opportunities and once again Larvik’s most lethal weapon was taken away – the counter attack. Soon Baia Mare had established a three-goal lead – 7:4 – and everything was pointing towards a first win at home. Slowly but surely Larvik managed to tighten their 6-0 defense, and Sandra Toft began to perform. The logical consequence – fast-breaks and in the established attack, right back Nora Mørk was a constant threat.
She forced the Romanian defense to focus on her side of the court, which opened the left side to Nora´s twin sister Thea.
To no surprise it was Thea Mørk who scored the equalizer at 8:8 (14th minute) and seconds later it was Nora who gave Larvik the very first lead in the 2015/16 Champions League season. An advantage Larvik would not relinquish anymore. By half time Moen’s team had increased the margin of difference to five goals.
Once again, Baia Mare had the better start, but not for long. The home team did score the first two goals after the break and was able to reduce the deficit to three goals, but soon thereafter Larvik got up by five again leading 21:16. The crucial moment came nine minutes into the second half – first, Larvik’s Gro Hammerseng-Edin was sent off and 12 seconds later, it was Marit Malm Frafjord´s turn to be sent to the bench by the two referees from Slovakia.
However, the hosts were not able to capitalize on this huge opportunity to cut the lead. In fact, the one minute and 49 seconds when they had two additional players more on the pitch ended 1:1! Baia Mare did manage to cut the gap to two goals towards the end but it was too little, too late. Thea Mørk’s ninth goal sealed the deal for Larvik with one minute to play.
Player of the Match
It would be tempting to let this award go to Thea Mørk, as she only needed nine attempts for her nine goals. However, the spectacular performance of her twin sister Nora (9/16) was even more critical to Larvik’s success. Her long-range shooting was a constant threat occupying Baia Mare’s defense while her 1-on-1 actions created the space for several of her teammates, especially sister Thea and Amanda Kurtovic.
Battle of the Match
Sandra Toft, who had an evening to forget about when Larvik lost the Champions League home opener to Rostov-Don, clearly won the battle for “Best-Goalkeeper” against Paula Ungureanu and Ionica Munteanu (Baia Mare) A savings rate of 34% may not sound all too impressive, but it was considerably better than the 14% (up from 10% at half-time) joint performance of the two Romanian shot-stoppers. The 26-year-old Danish international played a significant part in Larvik’s win. Her parade in the 12th minute of the encounter – preventing a wide-open Valentina Elisei to convert on a Baia Mare counter attack – turned out to be a “game-changer”. Thereafter Gro Hammerseng-Edin & Co. went on a 13:6 run until half-time – Larvik would never look back.
Highlight of the Match
This one goes to the losing team. Three minutes and 14 seconds into the first half, Baia Mare´s Dutch left back, Lois Abbingh, served Croatian line player Katarina Jezic with a brilliant pass, which Jezic caught one-handed while turning around and sending the ball into the net in the same movement.
The 2500 spectators in the packed arena did their best to support the home team while putting pressure on visitors and referees alike. They never gave up cheering for their team, no matter how bleak things looked at “Sala Polivalenta Lascar Pana” along the way.
To Larvik, the first Champions League victory of the season was an important one. Another defeat would have made an already precarious situation even more difficult – particularly, when looking ahead towards the main round. Coach Tor Odvar Moen took his chances and depended on only a few players to perform on the offensive end. It all worked out this past Friday in Romania, but the current lack of depth in Larvik’s squad may be a problem further on. On behalf of last season´s runner-up in the Women´s Champions League, one can only hope that at least Anja Hammerseng-Edin will be fit again soon.
Baia Mare’s coach Aurelain Rosca will have to be concerned about his team’s defense, while he can find consolation in the fact that Paula Ungereanu usually performs much better in goal, than she did in the match against Larvik. Quick improvements will be needed before Rostov-Don will pay a visit to “Sala Polivalenta Lascar Pana” on October 30th.
Match of the Week #2 – Group C, Audi ETO KC vs FC Midtjylland 21:26 (11:11)
Before the match
Gyor began its 2015/16 Champions League campaign with an impressive and surprising 27:22 win away against Vardar, the club that robbed Gyor their FINAL4 hope last season. FC Midtjylland came to Hungary with a 33:21 victory at home against a toothless Hypo Niederösterreich on match day number one.
Before throw-off, Gyor was missing long-term injured playmaker Gabrielle Toth, but head coach Ambros Martín had plenty of players around that could play the position. To one of those playmakers, Nycke Groot, the match was a particularly special experience. Over the summer, the Dutch international had joined Gyor from Midtjylland, and as she admitted to stregspiller.com earlier in the week, the meeting with her former teammates would become an emotional affair for her.
Midtjylland’s coach Helle Thomsen on the other side had all her players fit for the match.
After Midtjylland had scored the first goal of the match, Gyor was absolutely dominating during the early parts of the first half.
The Danish visitors had plenty of problems to get their offense going. The team of coach Helle Thomsen had trouble creating good scoring opportunities. And the shots they did fire, were easily caught by Eva Kiss, who was guarding the Hungarian goal. No wonder that Gyor took a clear lead early on. 4:1, 5:2, 6:3, 9:4 and 10:5 did Gyor lead, and if Sabine Englert – and for a while Ana Vojcic – had not done marvels in goal, the situation could have been even worse for the Danish champions. However, the Hungarian pressure decreased ever so slightly when “The Queen of Hungarian Women´s Handball”, Anita Görbicz replaced Nycke Groot as playmaker for Gyor.
At the same time, Midtjylland started showing more determination in their attack, and with five unanswered goals, the visiting club was able to catch up at half time – 11:11.
Nycke Groot was back as playmaker for Gyor but this time it did not help the hosts.
After Gyor had extended the score, taking a 12:11 lead, the rest of the match belonged to Midtjylland. Norwegian international Veronica Kristiansen – one of the absolutely best players on the court – gave the visitors their first lead, 13:12 four minutes into the second half.
Midtjylland did not stop – Englert continued to shut her goal, while Kristiansen put constant pressure on Gyor’s defense, creating space for Louise Burgaard in particular. Five minutes into the second half, coach Ambros Martín called for time-out, having to repeat the procedure only six minutes later. It did not help.
He tried a 5-1 formation in defense, and later a 4-2 set-up – it did not help. In the attack, he worked with Aniko Kovacsics as playmaker and later again with Görbicz. None of it helped against a solid Midtjylland defense that gained extra self-confidence by the minute, courtesy of Sabine Englert.
Eventually, FC Midtjylland increased their lead to 23:16 – a comfortable margin of difference, allowing the team to play seven-against-six, a couple of times. Gyor’s deficit reduction towards the end of the match had only cosmetic significance.
Player of the match
In close competition with Veronica Kristiansen, this award had to go to Sabine Englert. For most parts of the match it was simply impossible to get the ball past the former German international. During the first half, her saves kept Midtjylland in the game and in the last 30 minutes she contributed big time to her team´s impressive win.
If Nycke Groot was emotionally influenced by playing against her former teammates, she was good at hiding it. Not only did she score her team´s first goal, she was also a brilliant playmaker as long as she was allowed to be on the court. Unless she sustained an injury – we did not notice any – it remained a mystery, why Ambros Martín kept her on the bench for most of the second half.
FC Midtjylland performed one of the greatest Danish sports results in a long time. Furthermore, the win will not only have significance for the group phase – the two points, which the Danes collected in Hungary this Sunday, may turn out to be critical during the next stage as well. There is no doubt that the main round tickets from this group will go to Gyor, Vardar and Midtjylland. For now Vardar is warned and should watch out, when Midtjylland comes to the Macedonian capital in a weeks time.
To Gyor, the defeat was an obvious and meaningful anticlimax following the impressive win in Skopje. The two points they lost against the Danish champions may be dearly missed later on in the tournament.
Not entirely unexpected, Isabelle Gullden enjoyed a victorious trip home to Partillebohallen against her former club Savehof. Inspired by the men’s Champions League performance of IF Kristianstad vs. Rhein Neckar Loewen only days earlier, Savehof’s keeper, Johanna Bundsen had promised to show no respect to the ambitious team from Romania’s capital. It remained a wishful thought. Led by another strong performance of Line Jorgensen, CSM Bucuresti went on a 6:1 run between the 5th and 11th minute when Franca DaSilva provided the early highlight of the match, scoring on a spectacular lop from left-wing. The individual class and cleverness of Bucuresti found no match, Savehof’s 23 turnovers did not help either. In the end the young team of Henrik Signell had to pay its dues while settling the score at 17:28.
Before the game much was made of the encounter between Alexandrina Barbosa and Nerea Pena, the two Spaniards playing at Champions League newcomer Fleury Loiret and the Hungarian champion FTC Rail Cargo. The clash between the two star players would keep all it promised on the outset. For 59 minutes Barbosa showcased her extraordinary skills, scoring 11 times before she would turn into the tragic hero of the match. Gnonsiane Niombla had turned over the ball in what should have been Fleury’s last attack of the game, when Barbosa cross checked no other but Nerea Pena who was charging towards Zoqbi de Paula’s goal. Barbosa collected a two-minute penalty while FTC’s seventh field player, Anita Cifra, scored a buzzer beating goal, tying the match at 28:28.
Rostov-Don, Buducnost, Thueringer HC and Vardar were all hitting soft targets. Especially, Vardar’s performance during the initial 30 minutes (22:9) at HYPO Niederoesterreich turned into a public practice session. In the second half, Andrea Lekic & Co. took the foot of the pedal while recording their first win of the Champions League season -38:25.
Rostov-Don easily outpaced the visitors from Krim Mercator 35:25 and the only real surprise in Buducnost’s win vs. MKS Selgros Lublin was why it took the reigning champions until the six minute to score their first goal? While Iwona Niedzwiedz exposed some weaknesses in Buducnost defense early on, Lublin’s 16 turnovers proved to be too much to seriously challenge the team of Dragan Adzic. The final score of 23:31 awarded all points to Katarina Bulatovic & Co. who look forward to a first stress test, next weekend when visiting unbeaten CSM Bucuresti.
Quote of the Day
Herbert Mueller (coach Thueringer HC) during his final timeout in minute 52: “Now is the time to decide the game!” Eventually, his players turned his advice into reality, beating Podravka Vegeta – 27:21.
Coach of the Week
Tor Odvar Moen. Already in his second game of this year’s Champions League season as Larvik’s head coach he was facing a “must-win” situation. A sobering loss at home vs. Rostov-Don and an injured Anja Hammerseng-Edin did not bode well before the match in Baia Mare. Choosing to work with a “short bench” was not without risk and drew some criticism on social media channels. In the end it all worked out.
Number of the Day
8 – Ekaterina Illina and Allison Pineau scored eight goals in their respective matches and currently lead the list of top scorers with seventeen goals each.
/ J. Schutz