Nürnberg’s sensational draw against ZvezdaArticle
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Great joy in Nürnberg: despite having only eight healthy players, the German champions made a surprise home draw.

Nürnberg’s sensational draw against Zvezda.

In the first ever group match in the Champions League in the club’s history, German women’s champion 1. FC Nürnberg had a long night of celebration. They took one point against the “unbeatable, big Russians” of Zvezda Zvenigorod.

As the final whistle was blown, the spectators and the FCN players could hardly believe what’s happened. The “Club”, this is the nickname of Nürnberg, was the underdog in the group. And though they are on top of the Bundesliga again, the first opponent looked so big, so unbeatable that nobody expected them to have a chance against Russian champion Zvezda.

Zvezda celebrated the EHF Cup last year, the beginning is more difficult in the CL  But after some seconds of thinking a big celebration began: shouting, dancing, jumping. The players were in a rush, just as during the game. 27:27 (15:16) was the final score against one of the big CL favourites of the season. And Nürnberg had the chance for even more in the final seconds of the match against the charismatic coach Jevgeni Trefilov. The Russian coach, who has 80 percent of the national team in his squad, was not even shouting as much as he usually does.

Some seconds were still to play when Zvezda lost the ball and the Slovakian international, Miriam Simakova, had a chance to win the game for the hosts, but she missed.

The people of Nürnberg are more than satisfied with this sensational draw:

“This result for us is like winning a gold,” said coach Herbert Müller in his typical enthusiastic manner. “I am so proud. My players fought as it was their last game.”

The big Russians (1,85m average body height) may have taken the victory against Nürnberg for granted as the Germans had only eight healthy players (including substitutes). Even the 36-year old Simone Luber, playing last season for the third-division team of Nürnberg, had to play. And “playing” means 60 minutes these days in FCN…

The Germans fought hard – and surprisingly for the Russians – they could keep the speed and cope with the powerful play for the whole match. Only eleven minutes were played when Trefilov took his first time-out, but even after this his players seemed not to understand what he wanted to say.

Late winning chance for Nürnberg

Nürnberg were in the lead at 10:8 and Zvezda began to play with more concentration. The Russians took a 16:15 halftime lead. Even at this time it was obvious that the Russians had a problem when Nürnberg speeded up.

“We did not have any pressure on us, so it was much easier for us to play,” said FCN’s German international, Ania Rösler. The match stayed close in the second half and Zvezda made too many mistakes even as they were leading by three goals.

With three minutes to play the score was 25:27. The tallest Russians player, Elena Polenova, was red carded after her third suspension. Rösler scored with a 7-metre throw and Sommerlund equalised.

“Maybe we had the chance to win in the last seconds, but for me it’s not a problem to miss this goal. We showed a brilliant performance,” said Müller, who praised especially the defence.

“They stood like a wall. Let’s see, what we are able to do in our next match in Ljubljana.”

TEXT: Björn Pazen