Second phase opens with thriller in LjubljanaArticle
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Preview of all Main Round matches from Round 4 of the EHF Women's Champions League.

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Second phase opens with thriller in Ljubljana

The second phase of the EHF Champions League Main Round starts on Friday with the clash between Krim Ljubljana and Budućnost Podgorica.

So far in Group 1 all of the games ended with home victories. Therefore every team still has a chance for the desired semi-final spot.

In Group 2 Larvik HK and Audi ETO Győr have been the dominating teams, while Leipzig and Dinamo Volgograd seem to have caught a cold. So it would be a big surprise if the Norwegian and Hungarian champions didn’t qualify for the semi-finals of the EHF Women’s Champions League.

Group 1

RK Krim Ljubljana (SLO) vs. Budućnost Podgorica (MNE)
Friday 04 March 2011, 19:30 hrs (local time)

Both teams only have two points on their account, so a defeat would minimize the loser’s chances of clinching a semi-final spot.

Despite missing a few important players, the Montenegrin champions Budućnost were hoping to collect two points in Spain in Round 3, but the strong Itxako side allowed them only few chances. So coach Dragan Adžić’s team lost their second away match.

“We had several players with a light fever on court in Estella. That, coupled with the injuries, cost us the two points,” said Budućnost player Gabriella Kindl.

The 31-year-old defensive specialist is on rehabilitation at the moment, and won’t be available to help her team-mates in the Main Round: “I returned home from the EHF EURO with several small injuries, started to play, but my calf muscle was torn, so I’m visiting doctors now,” added Kindl.

In the former Hungarian National Team player’s opinion “the club’s preparation for the Main Round had several struggles, as many players got injured at the European Championship and it was impossible to prepare with the whole team.”

This is where she sees the explanation for the disappointing performance of Budućnost among the Top 8. “Now it looks much better physically and also psychologically. The team had some days off after the third round and left for Ljubljana with the will to win.”

“The key to a victory will be defence, and our players also need to stop Krim’s most potent weapon, the fast counter attack. In the away game we will need full concentration. Grit and good organisation will be needed for the whole 60 minutes,” Kindl added.

On Krim’s side, the memory of the 3-goal defeat in the second round is still alive and the Slovenian champions aim to take revenge for the lost game in Budućnost’s Morača Sports Centre.

For this they will have to act more aggressively in defence, not allowing the opponent’s back court players to come close to the goal and shoot.

“We have been talking about this for over a week so I hope that this second match against Budućnost will turn out completely differently to the first one,” said Krim’s key player Andrea Lekić in a recent interview to

Krim’s Dragana Cvijić is still out with a serious knee injury, but despite injuries, the Slovenian’s main focus remains exclusively on the Friday night clash in their Športni park Stožice.

If the home victory series in Group 1 continues, Marta Bon’s team would announce their serious candidacy for one of the two positions leading to the semi-final, whilst Budućnost need two home victories to maintain their chances for the Top 4 in this year’s EHF CL.

The EHF Women's Champions League game of Main Round Group 1, RK Krim Mercator (SLO) against Budućnost Podgorica (MNE) on Friday, 04 March 2011, 19:30 hrs (local time) will be broadcast live on our free-of-charge web stream on

Oltchim Rm. Vâlcea (ROU) vs. Itxako Reyno De Navarra (ESP)
Sunday 06 March 2011, 18:00 hrs (local time)

Anja Andersen’s team from Oltchim will host group leaders Itxako. As both teams have four points in the bank, they will battle for the leadership in Group 1.

Prior to the Main Round, especially after Itxako’s opening defeat in Ljubljana, not many would have thought that the Spaniards would lead the group at the half-time break.

However, they are playing a continuously improving and tactically well thought out game plan from round to round, so it came as no surprise to experts that Ambros Martín’s team defeated Budućnost.

“Not many expected us to win against top teams in the EHF Champions League,” said Itxako’s Oana Soit.

It was a clear victory in Round 3 and the margin against Popovic and Co. could easily have been more than 5 at the final whistle.

The 29 year-old right back pointed out the key elements for the well-celebrated home victory: “We surprised them with our open and aggressive defence. We also had fantastic statistics in scoring and had very few technical mistakes.”

Indeed, the open 4:2 and 5:1 defence systems worked very well and Martín´s team didn’t let the back court players come near enough to shoot.

One of the key figures for the success was defensive specialist Raphaëlle Tervel. The French international impressed in defence, but she got injured and is out for the game in Romania.

“In defence, I jumped and on the way down, I hit another girl’s foot, so my ankle is injured. The full recovery will take some time, and we will see how it goes day by day,” she explained.

Last weekend the Spanish champions collected their second title of the year. After having won the Spanish Supercup earlier, they now celebrated success in the Spanish Cup by beating Elda Prestigio in the final.

“We are in great shape now, with a hunger for more victories. We know that it will be very difficult to take some points in Râmnicu Vâlcea, but as always we will fight until the last minute, so you never know,” added Soit.

For the Romanian international, the game against Oltchim will be a very special one, as on the opposition side are several of her team-mates from the national team: “It will be my first game in Romania after 8 years in Spain, so it will be very special, as there will be some team-mates from the national team, but also friends in the stands.”

"To play in Sala Sporturilor ‘Traian’ is always something spectacular. The fans are incredible, and it’s the kind of atmosphere that any player wishes for in a game,” the right-back added.

Besides Tervel, both top back-court players from the EHF EURO 2010 All Star Team will be missing: Nerea Pena for Itxako, and Cristina Neagu for Oltchim.

The latter has suffered a shoulder injury and she has first been to Denmark for examination and then to Austria to a private clinic for therapeutic sessions. Neagu is expected to be out of handball for a month.

This is a huge setback for Oltchim, but since she has not been playing, Yeliz Özel has taken on more responsibility and she is shining, like in her best days. Additionally, Valentina Ardean Elisei contributes more to the Vâlcea attacks.

Coach Andersen has decided to stay in Romania until Oltchim’s last round match against Krim, which is a positive sign that the current situation is very important both for her and the club. Oltchim want to be among the Top 4 of the EHF CL.

Group 2

Dinamo Volgograd (RUS) vs. Larvik HK (NOR)
Saturday 05 March 2011, 14:00 hrs (local time)

Dinamo will have their last chance on home soil for a semi-final spot, whilst the Larvik players need to sort themselves out after the Norwegians were crushed by a fast and skilful Audi ETO.

In Round 3 Larvik suffered their first defeat in their home arena. Nothing worked that day, and the whole team had a blackout: “We had a complete collective collapse, where we lost about 90 percent of the duels. The Hungarians had clearly done their homework. They fought and rushed us in attack, while we did not get our defence to work at all. When we came to chances in attack, we could not provide passes to those in the target area," coach Tor Odvar Moen commented after the game.

Larvik’s playmaker Gro Hammerseng was reportedly being unwell before the game, which was not lucky for the home team on a day when their attacking game plan lacked ideas and creativeness:

“Gro played perhaps her best game in the Larvik shirt against Dinamo the weekend before. So of course it would have been good to have had her here today. Nevertheless, we cannot lay the blame on her, as we’ve played many good games, even without Gro on the court, earlier,” continues Moen.

In Russia, Hammerseng will be back and with her the Norwegians hope for a more organized attacking game plan.

In the first encounter, Larvik crushed Dinamo at home by 21 goals, but Hammerseng and her team-mates know that the Russians are strong at home and consider this to be their last chance in the race for a semi-final spot.

A tough match is expected. “We still have a good chance for the semi-final, and we’ll give our best to reach it. We will sort ourselves out, and whether we’ll have first or second place in the group is not so important,” added the Larvik coach.

In between their duels in the EHF Women’s Champions League, hosts Dinamo are also battling in the Russian championship against quality teams. Victor Ryabykh’s team is aiming to defend its first place from last year.

For the CL, in the coach’s opinion “Győr and Larvik are too superior this season.”

Also, a flu epidemic is reported in Volgograd, and several key players were not able to perform in Dinamo’s latest league game against Zvezda Zvenigorod. Some of them remain questionable for the match against Larvik.

“I would like my team-mates to be recovered and ready against the Norwegians as it’s my great desire to avenge the defeat in Norway,” said back court player Marina Lambevska.

Lambevska was the key figure in beating Zvezda, when she scored 10 times, and will also have an important role on Saturday.

Coach Ryabykh emphasized the fantastic team spirit that helped them to again secure victory: “Once again Dinamo’s spirit and character was showcased in this match, we have literally dragged the game from the jaws of defeat. Given that key players like Anna Kochetova and Olga Levina were not able to play at full capacity, plus nine people, who due to illness could not express themselves fully, this victory was very important, primarily, from a psychological aspect.”

The EHF Women's Champions League game of Main Round Group 2, Dinamo Volgograd (RUS) against Larvik HK (NOR) on Saturday 05 March 2011 at 14:00 hrs (local time)will be broadcast live on our free-of-charge web stream on

HC Leipzig (GER) vs. Audi ETO Győr (HUN)
Sunday 06 March 2011, 14:30 hrs (local time)

Leipzig, without any points in the Main Round so far, will meet the Hungarian Group 2 leaders, who have the maximum amount of points, and who beat Larvik in a most impressive manner in the away game in Round 3.

The standing in the group clearly indicates that the Hungarians are the favourites in this match, especially after Leipzig were also hit by flu.

After the game in Russia, several players (Loraine Hellriegel, Katja Schülke, Ania Rösler, Karolina Kudlacz and Natalie Augsburg) were out with the symptoms of H1N1, and for Ania Rösler, the flu virus has been diagnosed, so the team situation doesn’t look good prior to the match against the Hungarians.

“I was lying in bed with fever for almost two weeks. This will surely impact on my game at the weekend,“ said Leipzig’s Karolina Kudlacz.

“Our opponents Győr are a strong team, it doesn’t matter whether they play at home or away, they surely are a candidate for the EHF CL crown this season,“ continued Kudlacz, respectfully of her opponent.

“Therefore we will have to play without any fluctuations. I’m confident that with the backing of our great fans we will manage this,” added the back player.

Győr on the other hand are showing great confidence before the match in Germany, as with the victory in Larvik, the number one position in the group is possible.

“I think we prepared very well and during the game we were very focused on what to do. It was a day when everything went well for the whole team. With our goals they couldn't run their fast counter attack and with our excellent defence they couldn't play their best,” analyzed Eduarda Amorim.

Despite the dominance of Győr, the Brazilian international is not underestimating Leipzig: “Even though we had a clear victory in Norway, we didn’t score for several minutes in the second half, and therefore, we will have to prepare better for our next match.”

In a dress rehearsal, Csaba Konkoly’s team defeated Békéscsaba and leads the Hungarian championship with the maximum points.

Both Katalin Pálinger and Simona Spiridon missed the game due to recovering from injury, but they will be ready for Sunday.

“Thank God everybody is physically fine. Just small injuries bother us a bit, but we can prepare with full energy. Pálinger is getting better from day to day, and I believe she will be able to perform at the weekend,” added Amorim.

The left-back awaits a tough game: “This game is again very important to us. We beat Leipzig at home, but we didn’t perform very well. Despite the defeats, the Germans are an improving team that plays together well, especially in their arena. If we give a similar performance to that of last round I believe we can bring home the two points.”

TEXT: Márk Hegedüs