A miracle in Bucharest?Article
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Tension rises before the decisive second leg of the Women's EHF Champions League final.

A miracle in Bucharest?

A sold-out venue with over 5,000 spectators expects the second leg of the EHF Champions League Final between Oltchim Valcea and Viborg HK in Bucharest’s Sala Polivalenta. Romanian supporters dream of a miracle, and are hoping that their girls can overturn the defeat they suffered in Denmark.

In the first leg game the Danish champions Viborg were leading by a 10-goal margin a few minutes before the final whistle and convincingly defeated the Romanian side 28:21.

The key elements of the Viborg victory were their defence that performed excellently, and their quick counter-attacks, which let their wingers Cristina Varzaru and Henriette Mikkelsen score with ease. Experts say that Oltchim’s strength comes from its pivots Oana Manea and Ionela Stanca, but both were marked with great success in the first game.

The Romanian wing players, Ramona Maier and Ardean Elisei, will play an important role in the return leg. The latter is ready for the decisive battle, but she is only just back from injury and lacking in match experience. Maier was rather disappointing in the first leg. It’ll be a tough decision for Coach Radu Voina regarding his starting line-up.

Maier’s and Elisei’s replacements, Iulia Puscasu and Adriana Nechita were both brilliant in the semi-finals against Györ, but the Romanian coach gave the nod to Maier last weekend, and it proved to be a questionable decision.

Last weekend Valcea struggled in the back-court, with the gifted Cristina Neagu not having as many clear-cut shots as in previous games. Also, without the pregnant Adina Fiera, the Romanians will have one less player for their attacking game plan, even though she will be named for the match.

On the other hand, the Viborg HK players were full of confidence as they headed to Bucharest. The Danish team played a solid game on home soil and is now the favourite to win the Champions League for the second consecutive time.

The Lunde twins will have extra motivation, as they are leaving Viborg HK at the end of the season. Both players will be highly motivated to win the title in order to say a nice farewell to their club.

The Danes have a Romanian player in their line-up, right-winger Cristina Varzaru. She has scored 95 goals so far in this season’s CL, and with four more goals in the return leg, she’d overtake Hypo-NÖ´s Alexandra Do Nascimento to be crowned as the season’s EHF Champions League top-scorer.

Despite the loss in the first game, the run for tickets has been enormous, with the club office of Oltchim Valcea receiving more than 30,000 ticket requests. As a response to the high demand, the municipality of Bucharest decided to set up a giant screen, with 2000 seats, in Parcul Tineretului near to the Arena, where many sports fans will gather to celebrate women’s handball and to root for their girls to make the miracle happen.

Also in other Romanian cities public viewing zones have been set up. The country is full of hope and excitement before the first major European cup final since Steaua Bucharest reached the football final in 1986 and the men's handball final in 1989.

TEXT: Márk Hegedüs