Larvik and Budućnost in the Main RoundArticle
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Reigning champion Viborg need a little miracle to go on – summary of Sunday's matches in Round 4 of the Champions League.

Larvik and Budućnost in the Main Round

Larvik in Group C and Podgorica in Group A are the first teams to have qualified for the Main Round after a fourth straight victory. Larvik had no problems against Randers, and Budućnost may have ended the hopes of reigning CL champion Viborg with another clear victory.

In Group B, Itxako and Leipzig have the best chances of reaching the next stage with six points each, the same as Krim and Győr in Group D. All of those teams won their matches in Round 4 this weekend. In Group A, the fate of Dinamo Volgograd now rests in its own hands, as the team is four points ahead of Viborg. In Group C, Vâlcea had to struggle hard in Toulon, but thanks to their victory, the Romanians are in second place.

Group A:

IK Sävehof – Dinamo Volgograd 30:35 (17:16)

Extremely tough work for 60 minutes, followed by intense celebrations after the final whistle: Dinamo Volgograd is close to the Main Round - but still has two tough duels ahead against Viborg and Podgorica. In those games, the Russian champion must really prove its strength. For Sävehof, still without points, it is clear that they will not progress further in this season`s CL. The game was incredibly close for 54 minutes, and neither team could open-up more than a two-goal gap.

The more-favoured Russians had problems with their attack as the Swedish champion adjusted its tactics. Volgograd missed its last chance in the first half - a free throw at the final whistle - to reach a draw after 30 minutes. The Sävehof lead didn`t last long, however, as Volgograd improved its attack. Even so, the Swedes were still on a par with the Russians. In the 54th minute, the score was 29:30, but the Russians finished stronger. A Sävehof time-out at 29:31 didn`t bring the Swedes back on track, as Volgograd won the game by a five-goal margin.

Budućnost Podgorica – Viborg HK 32:24 (16:17)

Budućnost Podgorica not only remained unbeaten, but it really shook the confidence of Viborg. As the team from Montenegro qualified for the Main Round with this well-deserved victory, the reigning champion is close to failure.

To go on to the next stage, the Danes have to hope for a Podgorica victory against Volgograd, whilst also winning both of their own matches - including the game against Dinamo by a margin of at least nine goals.

Hard weeks lie ahead for VHK, but big celebrations are underway in Podgorica. After an even first half, the team of coach Dragan Adžić decided the game with its robust defence and the massive pressure that their back-court players placed upon Viborg.

The hopes were high for the Danes as they led at the break, but it only took the next ten minutes to break their resistance completely. After Budućnost had scored a 7:1 series to make it 23:18, the morale vanished from the VHK squad, and Podgorica cut through them like a hot knife through butter. The biggest gap was 30:21 in the 51st minute, and by then the game had already been decided.

Group B:

DVSC-Korvex Debrecen – HC Leipzig 19:20 (8:11)

This was a nail-biting game until the final second, but then the German champion celebrated its third victory, which opens the gate widely to the Main Round - even though they had to replace some key players.

Debrecen remains on two points, as does Hypo, and they have to hope that Itxako or Leipzig slip-up in the final two rounds. The match was full of emotion and tension, but also full of mistakes from both sides. Leipzig was in the lead for most of the match, but couldn`t escape from the Hungarians, who were supported by a great fan-base in Debrecen.

Despite some early suspensions, Leipzig took advantage of its early 3:0 lead to remain ahead at the break. At the re-start, HCL extended their lead to four goals (13:9) for the only time in the match. As Debrecen`s goalkeeper, Èva Kiss, improved, and the number of Leipzig mistakes increased, the match was close to becoming even, as HCL was leading 18:15 in the 46th minute. Debrecen equalized to make it 18:18 and 19:19 in the thrilling final stage of the match.

70 seconds before the end, Ania Rösler gave HCL the lead at 20:19, and then both teams missed with their attacks. Top scorers were Sopronyi (Debrecen) and Ulbricht (Leipzig) with each six goals.

Group C:

Randers HK – Larvik HK 20:38 (13:20)

Larvik HK was the first of the 16 participants to qualify for the Main Round of the Women`s Champions League. This clear result was its fourth straight victory, and with eight points, the Norwegian champion cannot be overtaken by their opponents, even though two rounds remain.

Randers had to replace several key players due to injuries and didn`t stand a chance against the "Norwegian storm", even though Larvik were without injured star Gro Hammerseng. Randers took an early time-out as Larvik raced to a 10:5 lead, but nothing changed, as the Norwegians played some brilliant fast breaks and their line-player Heidi Løke was very strong.

Top scorer was Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth with eight goals. After the break, Randers lost their rhythm, their power, their concentration, and finally, the match, by an even bigger score than in the first game in Larvik (19:33). The Danes - still with only two points - need victories in Vâlcea and in Toulon to keep their Main Round dreams alive.

Toulon Saint Cyr Var– Oltchim Vâlcea 22:26 (13:13)

Back on track: After two defeats and some discussion about the future of coach Péter Kovács, last season’s finalist, Oltchim Vâlcea, showed an important sign of life against the brave French champion. With four points on their account, the Romanians secured second place in their group, ahead of Randers and Toulon (each with two).

With a victory against Randers on home soil and a parallel victory or a draw of Larvik against Toulon, Vâlcea would follow the Norwegians next weekend.
The match in Toulon was mostly even despite the fact that Vâlcea was leading for most of the time. Neagu, Elisei (each with five goals), Stanca and Vizitiu (each with four goals) were the key players for the Romanians. On the other side, Mwasesa was top scorer of the match with ten goals. 

Right after the break, Toulon was leading 15:13, before Vâlcea scored six straight goals. But the Toulon resistance wasn’t broken until the 19:20 stage, after which the visitors had more will-power in the final stage of the game.

Group D:

Zvezda Zvenigorod – RK Krim Ljubljana 28:32 (7:19)

Krim, with 6 points, retained its good position in Group D, and is heading towards the Main Round after this highly decisive victory in Russia. Zvezda remains on four points after being outclassed by Krim – something which is not reflected in the rather generous final scoreline. 

The Russian runner-up has to win both of its last matches against Podravka and Győr to be sure of reaching the next CL stage. A brilliant defence, and the outstanding goalkeeper Jelena Grubisić (23 saves), were the key factors for Krim. The Slovenians really shocked their host in the first half, as Zvezda couldn’t break through the "Krim wall". In attack, the Slovenian champion waited patiently for its chances – and had effectively decided the game after 30 minutes with a surprising twelve-goal difference.

Zvezda coach Evgeny Trefilov found the right words during the break – but the gap was too big to turn the match completely.
In the end it was only a four-goal margin, but it was obvious that Krim would be declared the winner by the 45th minute. Top scorers were Kuznetsova with nine goals for Zvezda, and Varlec, with seven for Ljubljana.

Krim need at least a victory in the next match against Podravka to be absolutely sure of the Main Round. Zvezda needs victories against Győr and Podravka to avoid their third straight failure after the Group Phase.

Podravka Koprivnica- Audi ETO Győr 24:35 (10:19)

With their third straight victory, Győr (after losing the opener against Zvenigorod) is close to the next stage as Podravka remain without points after the fourth Round. Eight goals from Görbicz (showing a world class performance), and seven from Vérten, paved the way to this impressive result for the Hungarian champion.

Győr took the lead right at the start, extended it to 15:7, and 19:10 at the break. In the 42nd minute, the margin was ten goals for the first time at the score of 24:14, and despite eight goals from Pušić, the Hungarians maintained the gap. If Győr takes at least one point against Zvezda it will qualify for the Main Round.  

Statements after the match:

Csaba Konkoly, coach of Győr: "We worked hard during the week. We only had one weak period at the start of the second half, so I am satisfied with the result and the way we played." 

Neven Hrupec, coach of Podravka: "The victory was absolutely well-deserved. We could not reach the level that the Hungarians played at, and we were unable to score goals. Unfortunately, we lost the first half clearly due to the strong Győr defence."

TEXT: Björn Pazen