We Must Be In Focus All The Time…
November 9, 2015
…said Jan Pytlick during a time-out in the second half of the match between FC Midtjylland and his club, ZRK Vardar. A statement no entirely free of irony given the fact that his team was leading by six goals while the squad from his Danish home country had just scored their third point, deep into the second period. Helle Thomsen’s crew would add only one more goal before it would be all over. Within a week Vardar had outscored the Danish champion 58:39.
Focused was Henrik Signell’s Savehof when his women scored a consecutive win versus Lublin, to assure participation in the Champions League Main Round for a third year in a row. Considering the many changes ahead of the new season, no easy accomplishment. Hats off to coach Signell and his squad.
The two teams from Hungary (FTC Railcargo and Gyor Audi ETO) did what they had to do – win at home to ascertain ongoing involvement in the League of Champions.
And then there was the very first win for the French champion, Fleury-Loiret, against a stubborn squad from Podravka. In the end Gnonsiane Niombla made sure that her final penalty shot from the 7-meter mark would touch nothing but net. Coach Frederic Bougeant’s women remain one of only four unbeaten teams after round four of the EHF Champions League – “Felicitations”. Details and highlights…
By Peter Bruun
Group A – Rostov-Don vs HCM Baia Mare 27:26 (14:15)
Showtime – Thriller in Palace of Sport
One of the very few positive aspects of a defeat is that you often learn more from losing than you do from winning.
This old truth was confirmed in the Palace of Sport in Rostov-Don, where 2,500 spectators came to realize, that Baia Mare had apparently learned a bit more from their home match against Allison Pineau & Co. a week ago, than their Russian opponents had from their 22:20 win in Romania on October 30th.
With a brilliant Paula Ungureanu – she saved two penalties in the first half alone – and a splendid performance of Allison Pineau leading the attack, Baia Mare was the better team for long periods of the match.
Pineau was particularly good at pressing Rostov’s defense further back than they liked, and she managed to benefit a great deal from this flat formation. Not only becoming the top scorer with ten goals, but also to getting her back-court colleagues effectively involved.
It enabled Baia Mare to take the lead several times during the first half and just as Rostov-Don seemed to have regained control, the visitors struck back once again to lead by one at half-time. The guests continued to be in the driver´s seat in the second half – until Rostov-Don’s coach Jan Leslie finally acknowledged Katrine Lunde having an unfortunate day and replacing her with Anna Sedoykina. The 31-year-old Russian opened with a series of saves that enabled the hosts to take their first three-goal lead at 25:22 with eight minutes left. A bit later Rostov’s advantage increased to four goals and the game was decided.
Player of the Match
Allison Pineau. Not only did the 26-year-old French international become the highest scoring player of the match with ten goals. The Baia Mare playmaker also managed to put enormous pressure on Rostov-Don’s defense that for a long time it seemed that she would decide the game single-handedly. It was certainly not her fault that it all turned out differently.
If Rostov’s coach Jan Leslie had not replaced Katrine Lunde with Anna Sedoykina in goal with a quarter of an hour left in the game, his team might very well have suffered their first Champions League loss. Sedoykina started her session between Rostov’s goal posts with a series of saves and contributed decisively to the home team’s winning performance.
Coach of the Match
Aurelian Roscan. The Baia Mare coach had obviously analyzed his squad´s first encounter against Rostov-Don thoroughly, following the 22:20 loss at home. He seemed to have read the Russian champions just right and his tactics were close to achieving a successful ending. His colleague, Jan Leslie, took long but not too late, to realize that it was not Katrine Lunde´s day in Rostov’s goal.
Group A – Larvik vs RK Krim Mercator 32:28 (17:15)
Mission (not so) Impossible
If the 1,710 spectators in Arena Larvik were expecting a KRIM push-over – which they undoubtedly did, following Larvik’s decisive win earlier in the tournament – they got an unpleasant and early wake-up call. As it turned out, KRIM had come to Norway to give the favorites a run-for-their-money and at least make up for a very poor performance in their 37:21 loss at home, eight days earlier.
It is a rare occurrence to see a frown on the face of Larvik’s coach, Tor Odvar Moen. But it came close to it, when KRIM was leading 13:9 in the first half. From the start, Moen was resting ankle-troubled Nora Mørk and only six minutes into the match, he lost yet another back court player, Anja Hammerseng-Edin, who injured her leg.
Larvik´s injury trouble was made even worse eight minutes into the second half, when left-wing Thea Mørk dislocated her left shoulder. Still, the Champions League finalist of the previous season managed to turn the game around before the break. Although KRIM put up a decent fight during the second half, Larvik was able to take a four-goal win after all.
Group B – FTC Railcargo vs Thueringer HC 32:28 (19:12)
Injuries continued to plague the German champion. Only 12 players of Thueringer HC made the trip to the Hungarian capital. As a week before the team of coach Herbert Mueller could do little to stop the assertive actions of FTC. Nerea Pena and Co. went on a 6:1 run in the last six minutes before the half-time buzzer rang. In the second period the familiar picture did not change. Thueringer HC kept on fighting while FTC continued scoring and pulling away. By the 50th minute the Hungarian champion had increased its lead to eight goals and coach Gabor Elek began rotating his bench players, allowing Thueringer HC to reduce the deficit.
Quote of the Match
The “award” goes to coach Herbert Mueller (Thueringer HC) during his second time-out in the second half of the match, he reminded Kerstin Wohlbold et al that “every goal counts”. His players listened and outscored FTC Railcargo 5:1 during the last five minutes of the match.
In a weeks time, Thueringer HC will pay a visit to Orleans in their quest for vital points that will matter in the Main Round of Europe’s elite handball competition. While the odds currently favor the French champion, Mueller’s squad should not be counted out yet. Despite being outnumbered and outplayed in Budapest this past weekend, his team never gave up fighting. Fleury-Loiret will do well not underestimating the will power and experience of the club from the east of Germany.
Group B – Fleury-Loiret vs Podravka Vegeta 19:17 (11:6)
A victory for the history books of club Cercle Jules Ferry Fleury-les-Aubrais Handball. In their very first Champions League season it took the team of Frederic Bougeant four games to record a first win. It wasn’t pretty but too much was at stake for Alexandrine Barbosa and her teammates. 2,400 spectators had made the trip to the Palais des Sports in Orleans to see the home team succeed but they had to wait until the very last minute before Niombla’s skillful lob from the 7-meter mark would seal the deal.
Statistic of the Match
48% Saves – courtesy of Darly Zoqbi de Paula. Fleury’s goalkeeper made sure that this 8th day of November, 2015 would be remembered way beyond her time as an active player.
Group C – FC Midtjylland vs HC Vardar 15:25 (11:12)
This old adage has been clearly demonstrated in the two Champions League matches between Vardar and FC Midtjylland. Vardar, with a budget several times the one of Midtjylland, has 18 national team players in their squad – two more than they are even permitted to have on the roster for Champions League matches. The luxurious financial situation also allows them to invite strong and prominent training opponents; the visit of the Danish national team earlier this year being an illustrative example. Today the qualitative differences were emphasized at Ikast Brande Arena, where Vardar won by an even bigger margin, than in the first game against the Danish champion a week ago.
Before the Match
Vardar came to Ikast with the recommendation of a 33:24 win in the two teams´ first meeting a week earlier. This Sunday, the Macedonian power-house met a handicapped Midtjylland team. Line-player Susan Thorsgaard was ruled out having caught a flue virus, while right back Louise Burgaard was suffering from shoulder problems.
Midtjylland got off to a far better start than in the first match against Vardar. A tactically well prepared Danish team was leading by a goal or two from the beginning and it took the club from Skopje more than 15 minutes to get their first lead at 7:6. Still, Midtjylland did not let go and was able to follow the Macedonian favorites all the way to half time, courtesy of Louise Burgaard who did not seem to be bothered too much by her sore shoulder.
Thorsgaard´s absence meant a lot of extra work for Sabine Pedersen at both ends of the court, and the debut for 18-year-old Line Skak. She even managed to score the 11:11 equalizer in the last minute of the first period.
It did not take Vardar too long to decide the matter after exiting the locker room. Midtjylland was only able to score one time during the first 18 minutes of the second half, while the visitors made use of the one-sided goal drought to increase their half time lead to 20:12. Coach Helle Thomsen tried playing seven against six in the attack a few times, but this did not help her team. Neither did the 5-1 defensive formation, which the Danish champions managed to confuse Vardar for periods in the previous match. Realizing that the battle was lost case, Helle Thomsen allowed for match praxis to some of her young substitutes, thereby adding to the margin of loss.
Unfortunately, Midtjylland’s keeper Sabine Englert injured her back early in the first half. She returned to the bench after receiving treatment in the locker room but only re-appeared once for a penalty shot. However, the loss for the Danish champion was limited, as Englert´s substitute Ana Vojcic did very well. The 36-year-old Serbian goalkeeper was not to blame for the outsized defeat.
18-year-old line player Line Skak had only been on the court for a few minutes, making her very first Champions League appearance, when she scored her first goal in the tournament.
Battle of the Coaches
Clearly, Jan Pytlick won this one. The Danish head coach (officially he is a consultant) of Vardar had done an outstanding job, “reading” Midtjylland’s game plan, benefiting from his vast knowledge about his opponents, of course.
It was quite obvious that he used this knowledge well to prepare his players for a task that became easier than expected.
The French Bonaventura twins are usually among the best female referees in the world, maybe THE best.
However, even the best have good and not so good days. Let’s just say that this Sunday afternoon was not among the sisters´ greatest moments. An unnecessarily hard and also inconsistent line contributed to confusing the players. Fortunately, it was not deciding the game.
Vardar took two valuable points for the main round, which are particularly important given the five-goal loss against Gyor in their season opener. Midtjylland is practically assured of the Main Round – unless the club loses its next two games; an unlikely outcome, considering the weakness of the representative from Austria in this year’s Champions League.
Group C – Gyor Audi ETO KC vs Hypo Niederösterreich 37:16 (17:9)
After seeing a couple of mighty clubs in trouble this weekend, it was rather refreshing to see that favorites sometimes do exactly what is expect of them. That’s what Gyor did this Sunday, at home against Hypo who appear more and more as the weakest team in the entire Champions League. There really is no good reason to waste many words on this match, a game in which Gyor started by taking a clear lead that was increased throughout the 60 minutes.
Group D – Buducnost Podgorica – CSM Bucuresti 23:23 (12:13)
Group D – IK Savehof vs MKS Selgros Lublin 27:24 (14:11)
While the Swedish champion did not repeat the fireworks from the previous weekend when they outscored MKS Selgros Lublin by the record margin of 34:21, it was enough to put a smile on coach Signell’s face. Playmaker Stine Lund Andreassen and her teammates did not miss this opportunity to claim their right to the Main Round of the 2015/16 edition of the Champions League, for third year in a row. Well deserved when taking into account the many departures over the summer and the excellent work of coach Signell since then, putting together another young and exciting team.
Statistic of the Match
8 goals – scored by 20-year Julia Eriksson who is playing a remarkable Champions League season. After scoring a total of 13 goals in the previous year she is well on her way to setting a new personal record with 21 goals and counting.
More to learn when EHF’s “Rookie of Round 4” Olivia Mellegard & Co. will host the reigning champions from Montenegro in a weeks time.