Anja Althaus

Trick-or-Treat Peter Bruun's Corner, News Leave a Comment



November 2, 2015

Trick-or-Treating is a Halloween custom in many countries on October 31 of each year.  Children in costumes travel from house to house asking for treats such as candy with the phrase “Trick-or-Treat”.  The “trick” is the usually (idle) threat to perform mischief on the homeowner if no treat is given.  This past Halloween weekend saw plenty of “tricking” and much less “treating” in the women’s EHF Champions League, when most of the “homeowners” were “tricked” precipitously by their respective visitors.  Extensive game-by-game coverage below.

By Peter Bruun


GROUP A – HCM Baia Mare vs Rostov-Don 20:22 (10:13)

Before the Match

Rostov-Don came to Romania with two straight victories, a surprising 27:21 road-win against Larvik and an expected 35:25 success at home against Krim.  Baia Mare had also defeated Krim – 33:27 in Slovenia – but was already under severe pressure with regards to the prospects in the Champions League Main Round, having lost 31:29 at home against Larvik, just a week ago.

1st Half

Rostov-Don got the far better start and the Russian champions seemed to be in complete control, as they went from 1:1 to 4:1 and later 7:3.  Jan Leslie´s Champions League debutants were already leading 9:6 before Baia Mare got into the game.  Five minutes before the half-time buzzer, French playmaker Allison Pineau benefited from a penalty shot to draw equal (10:10).  Unfortunately, Pineau´s goal from the 7-meter mark was going to be the hosts´ last score in the first 30 minutes.  Rostov-Don went ahead and recorded three more goals before heading to the locker-room.

2nd Half

This time, it was Baia Mare´s turn to get the better start, but it did not last for long.  The Romanian club scored the first two points of the second half before Russia’s champion went up by three again.  Still, Baia Mare was capable of yet another comeback.  Midway through the second half, Brazilian right wing, Alexandrina do Nascimento, drew equal (16:16), only to watch Rostov-Don re-establish a three-point margin shortly thereafter again.  With a minute and three seconds on the clock, Dutch international Lois Abbingh reduced the deficit to 21:20 with her sixth goal in the match.  This was as close as Baia Mare got – Anna Sen made it 22:20 and with seconds left, the matter was decided.

Highlight of the Match

More curious than elegant – it occurred in one of the many situations, when Rostov’s coach Jan Leslie decided to replace his goalkeeper with another field player.  The additional woman on the pitch, Viktoriya Borshchenko did not get out in time, but had to act as goalkeeper.  As Baia Mare received a free-throw, Borshchenko thought, she had the time to get out.  Well, she had not.  Before keeper, Katrine Lunde could get back to goal, Allison Pineau easily lobbed the ball over Rostov’s defense into the empty net.  It would not be that simple again.


The Spanish referees, Andreu Marin Lorente and Ignacio Garcia Serradilla got the 2,000 spectators in “Sala Polivalenta Lascar Pana” hall out of their seats when they sent Baia Mare´s left wing, Valentina Ardean Elisei, off the court via direct red card.  The punishment was certainly justifiable, following a blow straight to the face of Rostov’s Ana Sen.  But not all referees would have dared to hand out such stiff penalty to a player from the home team, in a heated environment like Baia Mare.  Yet, Lorente and Serradilla did have the courage to make the hard call and not care about the pressures from the crowd.  More of such referees – please!

The Crowd

The 2,000 observers of the match did their best in support of their club again – and again.  Like a week before, it was not quite enough to push their heroines to a first Champions League win on home turf.


Rostov-Don increasingly looks like a serious contender for the FINAL4 in May of next year, and possibly more.  So far, coach Jan Leslie´s team are clear favorites to win Group A and it is difficult to see how they will lose any points along the rest of the way.

Expect Leslie´s squad to add even more quality, when Danish international Lotte Grigel will join them in the next few days.  Baia Mare, on the other hand, is in imminent danger to enter the main round of the competition with zero points for a second year in a row. Last season, a coaching change yielded a spot in the Champions League quarter-finals, after all.  Who can save them this time?


Group A – RK Krim Mercator vs Larvik HK 21:37 (10:21)

Soft Target

Larvik had absolutely no problems while cruising to Champions League win number 100 as they defeated Krim by 16 goals, in Ljubljana on Friday evening.  Before the game, the odds were not exactly in favor for the Norwegian record champion.  Goalkeeper Sandra Toft had to spend Wednesday night in a Slovenian hospital due to an allergic reaction and right-back Nora Mørk had sustained an ankle injury in the quarter-final of the Norwegian Cup against Vipers Kristiansand, some days earlier.  While Mørk was able to play – for as long as her presence on the court was needed – Toft did not enter the field at all.  She was watching from the bench, as her substitute, Alma Hasanic performed well, saving 48% of all shots.

Krim was only able to hang with Larvik during the opening minutes.  From then on, last season´s Champions League finalist was absolutely dominating and increased the lead constantly until the finally tally read 37:21.  Larvik ‘s coach Tor Odvar Moen had the opportunity to provide his entire bench time on the pitch, including Anja Hammerseng-Edin, who played her first Champions League minutes of the season.

Surprise of the Match

The biggest surprise was the simple fact that Larvik was able to win by such outsized margin, even when taking into account the somewhat modest opposition.  Krim’s coach Marta Bon was “amazed”, as she stated in the press conference after the match.

Player of the Match

Amanda Kurtovic got another chance to showcase her remarkable skills.  The 24-year-old left-hander turned into the highest scoring player of the match with eight goals.


Larvik affirmed once again, that they have put the surprising 27:21 defeat at home to Rostov-Don, behind them.  The club from Norway’s southern coast still is a hot candidate for the FINAL4, in May 2016.

It did not take this particular game for Marta Bon to realize, that this season she coaches a squad that is participating in the League of Champions to gain experience – nothing more and nothing less.

_ _ _

Group B – Podravka Vegeta vs Fleury Loiret Handball 20:20 (11:13)

Before the Match

Following two draws Fleury Loiret was looking forward to a historical first victory in the EHF Champions League while visiting Croatia’s Podravka Vegeta.  Having lost in the previous rounds, Podravka appeared to be the right candidate that would have to submit to the French champion for a third time.  Yet, the team of Frederic Bougeant was warned.  Only one week earlier, Thueringer HC was struggling at “Sport Hall Fran Galovic” for the better part of the game against Podravka, before pulling away in the final minutes.

The Result

Already in the first 30 minutes of the encounter with the Croatian club it became obvious that this game would not turn into a one-sided affair.  While Alexandrina Barbosa put her outstanding shooting abilities on display (seven of her game high 8 goals came during the first half), Podravka enjoyed many liberties when in front of Zoqbi de Paula’s goal.  At the buzzer Podravka was trailing by three goals – only.

The second half started well for Niombla & Co – relatively speaking.   The real good news was that by minute 40, Fleury had extended its lead to four (17:13); that Manon Houette et al would only score three more times until the end of the match was the disappointing message.  As the low scoring affair dragged on, coach Bougeant must have had a deja-vu when – like in the game against FTC, a week ago – it was again Alexandrina Barbosa that had to sit on the bench during the decisive moments of the match, after receiving a two-minutes penalty.  And as in the previous two Champions League encounters, Fleury had to settle for another tie while Dora Krsnik’s third goal assured Podravka of a much-celebrated draw.

Statistic of the Match

14 Fleury turnovers kept Podravka in the game and eventually, translated into a first Champions League point for the team of coach Goran Mrden.  Can his squad repeat the trick in a week’s time when visiting in Orleans?  Don’t hang your hat on it.

What’s Next?

With three points on the board, Fleury is still firmly in charge of its Champions League future.  Hosting Podravka and Thueringer HC before traveling to Hungary’s champion FTC, represents an excellent position for entering the Main Round – even when “more” could have been achieved along the way.  Next to Rostov-Don, FTC and Buducnost Podgorica, the “Panthers” from Orleans remain the only unbeaten club, half-way through the group phase of the tournament. Who would have thought?

/ J. Schutz

Group B – Thueringer HC vs. FTC Rail Cargo 27:30 (13:18)

The Result

What was later described by coach Herbert Mueller (Thueringer HC) as “catastrophic defense work” helps to explain FTC’s road-win in Germany.  Add to it a “short” and inexperienced bench and you’ll get the full picture for Thueringer’s 27:30 loss at home this past Sunday.  All in all a costly defeat for the German champion of the past five years.

Player of the Match

Zita Szucsanszki – her eight goals made-up for a quiet afternoon of Nerea Pena (1).

What’s Next?

The next two matches will determine the Champions League destiny of coach Mueller’s team.  First, expect an uphill battle in Hungary, where Svenja Huber & Co meet Gabor Elek’s squad for a return match in a week’s time.  One week thereafter Fleury-Loiret Handball will look to keep all points in Orleans.   “When the going get’s tough, the tough get going” – it would be wrong to underestimate the willpower and fighting spirits of Kerstin Wohlbold et al. Thueringer HC collecting more points en route to the Main Round of the Champions League would come as a surprise only to those teams that lose them.   Never discount a squad that’s “powered” by Herbert Mueller.

/ J. Schutz

_ _ _


By Peter Bruun

Group C – Hypo Niederösterreich vs Gyor Audi ETO KC 21:29 (6:15)

Mission Impossible

Maybe Hypo would have more enjoyed trick-or-treat on this Halloween Saturday.  Playing against Gyor was maybe not the most fun part of this Champions League weekend.  On the bright side, the club from Austria suffered its “narrowest” loss so far in this young Champions Leauge season!  Just like when Vardar visited Vienna last weekend, Gyor also only needed the first half to settle things.  The former Hungarian champion was up by nine goals at half time already, before shifting a few gears down during the next 30 minutes.  Hypo coach Ferenc Kovacs tried playing seven against six in the attack several times at the beginning of the match, but he soon abandoned this tactic, which did not pay off at all.

In the second half, Gyor was leading by 12 goals on two occasions before allowing the home team to reduce the gap a bit.  Coach Ambros Martín had the opportunity to provide all his players with time on the court and saw no less than 13 of his athletes on the scoreboard.

Player of the Match

The award goes to a player from the losing team – Alzbeta Tothova.  Scoring ten goals against Gyor is quite an achievement – certainly when you play for Hypo Niederösterreich anno 2015.  The 37-year-old left back from Hypo performed a bit of a one-woman show during the last 21 minutes, when she scored nine goals.

Highlight of the Match

Anita Gorbicz’ pass behind her back to Heidi Løke who scored from the line.

Battle of the Match

It took place off-court.  It’s not far from Gyor to Vienna and numerous Hungarian fans took the opportunity to support their team on the road.  In fact, more than half of the 900 spectators in Maria Enzerdorf were supporters from Gyor, turning the match into a home game.


The match provided no new insights or answers to Gyor´s chances going forward.  The opposition was simply too weak to measure progress following their shocking 26:21 defeat to FC Midtjylland last Sunday.

Hypo proved once again that any point they might take in this group would be a sensation.


Group C – HC Vardar vs FC Midtjylland 33:24 (16:8)


Vardar was keen to redeem themselves in front of their home crowd and avenge the poor performance in their season opening defeat against Gyor.  FC Midtjylland, on the other hand, was hard to recognize after their impressive 26:21 road-win against Gyor.  The Danish champions were not prepared for the enormous physical pressure Vardar would put on them during the opening minutes.  Already in the first ten minutes of the game, Midtjylland had incurred as many technical mistakes as they committed in all of the 60 minutes against Gyor.

Vardar simply steamrolled their opponents from the start and was leading by eight goals half-way through the match.  At the beginning of the second period, the home team increased the margin of difference to ten goals before Jorgensen & Co. began pushing back, finally.  At the same time, Midtjylland’s coach Helle Thomsen had made a successful tactical adjustment by changing her defense from 6-0 into 5-1.  This measure, together with an improved performance of Sabine Englert in goal enabled Midtjylland to reduce the deficit to only four goals (28:24), before the hosts tightened the grip again, in the final minutes of the match.

Surprise of the match

As everyone was looking forward to the duel between French national goalkeeper Amandine Leynaud (Vardar) and Sabine Englert (Midtjylland), Vardar’s coaches Jan Pytlick and Indira Kastratovic surprised all by letting 36-year-old Russian veteran Inna Suslina tend the goal for most of the game – with great success.

Player of the Match

Andrea Penezic!  Not only because of her ten goals but also because of her scoring ability at a time when Midtjylland started to cut down on Vardar’s lead.

Highlight of the Match

Only once managed Midtjylland to fool Vardar’s defense while setting up a free-throw and keeping right-wing Trine Østergaard far out on the right side of the field.  A wide-open Østergaard received the easy pass and reduced the score to 28:24 at the time.  Unfortunately for the visitors, it was their last goal of the match.

Coach of the Match

Jan Pytlick – the former Danish national coach had prepared his players extremely well for the team from his homeland.  The fact that Midtjylland did not seem to be able to surprise Vardar with any tactical move – apart from the aforementioned 5-1 defense – played a significant part in Vardar’s decisive win.


Vardar’s victory completely opened up Group C, with Vardar, Gyor and Midtjylland now in a three-team battle for critical points for the main round of the tournament.  It will be most interesting to see if Midtjylland can make the necessary adjustments to their game before Vardar’s visit in Ikast, next Sunday.

_ _ _



Group D – CSM Bucuresti vs Buducnost Podgorica 22:28 (11:15)

Before the Match

The term “Lost” denotes that something has been taken away or cannot be recovered anymore.  It’s also an emotional state of mind that the women’s handball team of Buducnost Podgorica is not accustomed to, en route to a third consecutive FINAL4 appearance in Budapest, in the spring of 2016.  So far, the squad of Dragan Adzic could not be challenged in the 2015/16 Champions League season.  Neither Savehof nor MKS Selgors Lublin were able to push Katarina Bulatovic & Co to the proverbial edge.  CSM Bucuresti would be a different caliber, having no less than four players of the current World Champion (Brazil) on their roster.  Add to the already impressive line-up Sweden’s MVP of EURO 2014 – Isabelle Gullden – and you’ll begin to appreciate the inherent quality of the ambitious club from Romania’s capital.  As Buducnost, coach Rasmussen’s crew entered what was labeled the “clash of titans” unbeaten.

The Result

From the beginning, the champions from Montenegro set the tone courtesy of a red-hot performance of left-back Christina Neagu.  Bucuresti’s Line Jorgensen had her hands full, keeping track of the Romanian superstar.  Coach Rasmussen summed it up best during his first team timeout in the 19th minute- “We are losing all situations with Neagu!”  Buducnost had jumped into the lead by three goals and it seemed that nothing would change the dynamics of the match.  Katarina Bulatovic was clicking on all cylinders, providing timely goals when they were needed most – especially in the second half of the game.  Following a brief dry spell, Bucuresti was able to catch up with Buducnost (15:15) early in the second period and the game was on the verge of taking a turn.  Coach Adzic took time out and disrupted Bucuresti’s upward trend – for good.  In short order, his team extended the lead to three goals again and never looked back, settling the score at 28:22.

The Wall

Buducnost’s defense is legendary and depending on who you talk to – the description ranges from “very aggressive” to “mostly unfair”.  Fact is, opponents have to work very, very hard before finding gaps in the “blue-and-white” wall, that is so effectively organized by Dragana Cvijic and Kinga Achruk.  This weekend it was not different – Bucuresti found it tough to stretch Buducnost’s bulwark and the few times line-player Oana Manea had the opportunity for an open shot, she could only score twice during the initial 30 minutes.  Not enough to hang with Europe’s best women handball club.

Turning Point of the Match

There was none – Bucuresti came close to changing the game’s direction, when Da Silva scored the equalizer (15:15), six minutes into the second half.  Much to the distress of coach Rasmussen, his team never came that close again.

Player of the Match

Bucuresti native Christina Neagu (Buducnost) was playing in a class of her own – simply put.  No tactical measure could prevent her from scoring a game-high nine goals.  In current form, she is the best left-back in the world – by far.  Good for Buducnost, devastating for most any opponent.  What else is new?

Coach of the Match

Matching the intensity and energy of Buducnost’s coach Dragan Adzic is not an easy task.  If anyone can come close to it, it may well be Kim Rasmussen.  While Adzic has been working with the same core of players for the past three seasons (except K. Bulatovic), Rasmussen only recently got introduced to CSM Bucuresti, after the club decided to part ways with fellow Dane, Mette Klit.  This past Sunday, coach Adzic enjoyed the fruits of his work – once again. Over time expect Rasmussen to put his stamp on this Bucuresti team.  His next opportunity to challenge “grand-master” Adzic’s handball magic is right around the corner.  On November 8, both clubs meet again – this time at Moraca Hall – one of the most exciting arena’s to play, watch and coach the game of handball.  For now – advantage Adzic!

/ J. Schutz

Group D – MKS Selgros Lublin vs IK Savehof 21:34 (10:17)

Crunch Time

Nothing less but participation rights to the 2015/16 Champions League Main Round was at stake before the match between Sweden’s champion and Sabina Wlodek’s team from Lublin.  It was the first leg of two “mini-finals”.  Within a week’s time both clubs would effectively know who would join Europe’s finest squads in the next phase of the tournament.

The Result

Marta Gega + Co. were severely outplayed by a team that moved forward from the get-go – very, very fast forward.  From the first minute Stine Lund Andreassen and her teammates made clear which side would dominate the match.  Right-back Emma Ekenman-Fernis scored the first of her game-high six goals in the 2nd minute, in an encounter that would turn into a record setting Scandinavian shoot-out.  Savehof led throughout the game and finished at 34-21 (17:10) setting the club’s highest victory in Europe’s premier handball competition.

Coach of the Match

Hendrik Signell (Savehof) – hands down.  His team came prepared and it showed.  A motivated, agile and offensively minded Savehof defense posed significant problems to MKS Selgros Lublin.  Fifteen minutes into the match it became abundantly clear that Poland’s Champions League representative was unable to control left-back Julia Eriksson and Norwegian playmaker Andreassen.  At the time, Savehof had gone ahead by seven goals.  Whatever Signell’s counterpart, Sabina Wlodek, would try, he and his crew had a better answer.

Player(s) of the Match

While Savehof’s goalkeeper Johanna Bundsen (44% saves) was receiving the official honors, her 21-years young teammate Julia Eriksson could have been a worthy recipient as well.  Almost scoring at-will during the first 30 minutes, her strong defensive performance, in close cooperation with Elin Enhorning, helped to control Lublin’s usual sharp-shooters – Marta Gega and Iwona Niedzwiedz – throughout the game.

Statistic of the Match

Thirteen Lublin turnovers translated into nine Savehof fast-break goals.  Loui Sand et al. may not have it so easy again when the two clubs meet next time.

What’s Next?

MKS Selgros Lublin will visit coach Signell’s squad on November 6 at Partillebohallen.  It’s almost a given that Sabina Wlodek’s team will present itself differently but will it be enough to reverse the catastrophic result from this past Friday?  Highly unlikely!  Savehof’s next handball generation appears to be too quick on their feet to be caught flat-footed.

/ J. Schutz

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