Important decisions in Round 5Article
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Preview of all Main Round matches from Round 5 of the EHF Women's Champions League.

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Important decisions in Round 5

The last two rounds in the EHF Women’s Champions League Main Round are approaching quickly. In Group 2, the two teams advancing to the semi-finals have already been decided (Györi Audi ETO and Larvik HK), whereas in Group 1 anything is still possible as all four clubs have the chance to progress to the Top 4.

As important decisions happen in this round, this weekend all four Main Round games of the EHF Women's Champions League Group will be broadcast live on our free-of-charge web stream on

Group 1

Itxako Reyno De Navarra (ESP) - RK Krim Ljubljana (SLO)
Saturday 12 March 2011, 19:00 hrs (local time)

The leaders meet the bottom team in the group opener in Estella, but as all teams in Group 1 are on the same level, the winner is hard to predict.

Last weekend, Itxako put their number one position in concrete with an away victory in Râmnicu Vâlcea. And as the Spaniards won both encounters against last year’s EHF Champions League finalists Oltchim, their name was suddenly often quoted as favourites for this year’s final.

“Many are asking us to name an opponent from the other group for the semis, but we are not there yet,” said a humble Itxako coach Ambros Martín.

There are still two games to be played and the Spanish champions will need two more points to progress to the Top 4.

“We are not through yet. We will have a tough match against Krim and if we win this game, we will play the semi-finals. If we don’t succeed, we are still happy over having had such a good season” said right back Oana Şoit.

Indeed the hard work of the Spaniards is paying off now. They had to rebuild their team after several reinforcements joined them this summer. But the players have now formed a superb unit, and with the great tactician Ambros Martín, none of their opponents can be sure which kind of tactic the team will use against them.

With these excellent tactics, based mostly on an unusually offensive and aggressive defence, the Spaniards caused big problems to their opponents so far.

Defence could also be the key for Krim to be successful in Spain. In the last round, Marta Bon’s team lost on home soil, conceding 40 goals.

“Defence is the key to success, and even though we put a lot of emphasis on it in the last weeks, we didn’t manage to play against Budućnost in the way we had agreed,” said a disappointed Tamara Mavsar.

“We didn’t make any fouls, and against the Montenegrins with their tall and strong shooters, this would have been the action that was needed,” added the 19-year-old.

With Itxako’s victory, the chances are still alive for Krim, but they will need a top performance to clinch a win in Estella: “We knew from the beginning that they’re not a team to underestimate, but still it’s a little surprising that they are leading the group.”

“For us, only victories can count now for a semi-final spot, so we’ll do everything for this. With a good defence and attack, I’m sure we can bring home the desired two points from Spain,” continued Mavsar.

If Krim fail to qualify for the semis, it will be the same result as last year, when Bon’s team finished at the Top 8 stage.

For the young Slovenian back player this would be a real disappointment: “Last year we finished in the Main Round, so it would be nice to go on to the next level this season. In my opinion we still can do it, as we have some reserves that we have not yet used.”

Budućnost Podgorica (MNE) - Oltchim Rm. Vâlcea (ROU)
Sunday 13 March 2011, 19:30 hrs (local time)

Since the last round, several things have changed at both clubs, and Budućnost have the possibility to qualify for the semi-final with a victory on Sunday.

Although they are on equal points in the group, Budućnost have two home games ahead, while Oltchim need to play away twice to secure important points in the race for a semi-final spot.

The Romanians are under heavy pressure after they lost for the second time to Spanish Itxako. The management sacked coach Anja Andersen after four rounds - she only spent a little more than one month in Romania.

Andersen tried to put her Danish coaching methods into practice with the Romanians, but despite nice team-building efforts, she caused confusion when she started to use her players in unusual positions.

The team never found a way back to its game play from the autumn, and when Oltchim lost twice against current group leader Itxako, the management stopped the cooperation with immediate effect.

The new coach is Radu Voina, who trained Oltchim last season and led them to the final in the EHF Women’s Champions League.

“I signed until summer to shield National Team interest,” commented the coach. “If they want me to stay for next season, the team has to be rebuilt. We only need 18 players and possibly two different teams,” added Voina.

“We will either lose in Podgorica or the team wins with top motivation. We will try to win both matches and progress to the semis,” the coach continued.

Voina’s premiere was unlucky. In a Romanian league game on Thursday evening they only drew against U Jolidon Cluj. Since February 2009 Oltchim had not lost a single point in 54 games.

On the other side, the team of Dragan Adžić was happy to have won their first away match, in Ljubljana.

The key element for the victory was our faith in the victory, so finally we produced a great game with few mistakes,” said Ana Đokić.

In the games that the Montenegrin champion lost, several key players were injured. But now all but defensive specialist Gabriella Kindl will return.

“This match against Oltchim will be our most important one this season,” added line player Đokić.

“In the preparation our main aim was to resolve the individual errors of the last round match against Krim. In the first encounter in Râmnicu Vâlcea we only lost by one goal, but I believe we have now gained confidence and we can produce a much better game play,” added Đokić.

The news of a coach change at the Romanian champion quickly reached Montenegro as well, but in Ana’s opinion “the most important thing will be not to care about what happened in Râmnicu Vâlcea, but to concentrate 100% on our own performance.”

“Oltchim’s game might change with Voina, but if we perform as well as we can, then we will reach our objective.”

Group 2

Larvik HK (NOR) - HC Leipzig (GER)
Saturday 12 March 2011, 16:45 hrs (local time)

Everything is clear when it comes to semi-final places in Group 2, although Larvik still need to win to remain in the race for the number one position in the group. Leipzig, still without points, have just two games left in which to gain some. By that, they would make their Main Round exit taste a little sweeter.

After the shock defeat against Györi Audi ETO, the Norwegians return to their home Larvik Arena and want to prove to themselves and their fans that the defeat, two rounds ago, was merely a one-off occurrence.

In Volgograd, Gro Hammerseng returned after illness to lead her side to a convincing victory, with Cecilie Leganger performing heroics in goal: ”She was our key figure in this match with a fantastic saving rate of over 50%, giving the team a solid backing,” said coach Tor Odvar Moen.

“Lene Rantala and Cecilie Leganger are a great duo and they’ve shown strong performances for several years at the highest level. Cecilie is very emotional, and with acrobatic saves. I like her goalkeeping a lot,” admitted respectfully, Leganger’s counterpart Katja Schülke.

In the game against the Russians, both right back Linn Jørum Sulland, and line player Heidi Løke contributed important goals to the success. The latter is still leading the top scorer list of the EHF Champions League with 74 goals. “I was very pleased with the team spirit. We have done what we came to do and returned home with the two points,” confirmed Moen.

Those points meant a qualification for the Top 4 after Leipzig lost their Sunday match against Györi Audi ETO.

The German champions will be a very tough opponent for the Norwegians as, even though Heine Jensen’s team is still without points, the players are all fit after their flu epidemic and a tight game is expected: “We put them under great pressure on home soil and they had to go all-out to win that match,” Leipzig’s Katja Schülke told

“We aim for a similar performance this weekend and we know that each of us will need to give 100%,” continued the goalkeeper.

Larvik are already in the semi-final, but despite this, Schülke thinks that “they will focus very much on this match. They want to win it, just like the trophy.”

The most potent weapon of the Norwegians has to be the compact, aggressive defence, and based on this, the quick counter attacks. “We have to disturb and stop their fast game play so that they have to play normal attacking, 6 against 6. If we manage this, we will have our chances,” added Schülke, with great optimism.

“We shall play at full speed and beat Leipzig properly at home,” countered Larvik’s Tine Rustad Kristiansen, after her side beat Levanger in a dress rehearsal on Wednesday.

Audi ETO Győr (HUN) - Dinamo Volgograd (RUS)
Sunday 13 March 2011, 18:15 hrs (local time)

Full dominance in the Hungarian league, 9 consecutive victories in the EHF Women’s Champions League – can the Russian champions Dinamo Volgograd upset Csaba Konkoly’s team in the Magvassy Mihály Arena?

Not if Győr will employ the same aggressive defence of the last round. The top duo of Katalin Pálinger and Katrine Lunde Haraldsen has only conceded 84 goals in four rounds of the Main Round.

“We stood very well in first half against Leipzig. In the second we had some problems, but as we managed to keep playing our game, we brought home the victory,” said Audi ETO’s Ana Gros about last weekend’s away match.

The young Slovenian international is getting more and more responsibility in the Győr jersey, as besides the attacks, she often receives some playing time in defence, too.

“We have great preparation for every opponent and it has resulted in good games and victories so far. We will now have two tough matches, and as we wish to finish first in the group, our priority is to win them both,” added the right back.

As the Hungarians will play both of their last games on home soil, they can again trust their fantastic supporters to cheer them loudly and enthusiastically during the whole match. Even though Győr are already in the semis, a lot of spectators are expected in the Magvassy Arena against the Russians.

“Dinamo are a really good team with top players at every position. They have several quality back court players that have the 'surprise' shot from the floor without jumping,” Gros respectfully spoke about the opponent.

“We have to stop their shots, and mark their line players well, more than in the away game, where we experienced some trouble,” continued the 19-year-old. “If our defence stands as well as against Larvik, we will have great chances.”

For Dinamo, their dream for the semi-final disappeared when Volgograd lost their last home match in Round 4 against Larvik HK.

The core of the team suffered from a flu epidemic in the days prior to the match, and therefore three key players were unable to enter the court.

A reinforced young team faced a too high task against the strong Larvik side: “I was disappointed with our main attackers, as both Olena Iatsenko and Marina Lambevska were far from their usual quality,” explained Dinamo coach Victor Ryabykh.

“I don’t need to argue about our bad results, as nine players of the club were similarly affected by the flu. We have failed early in the EHF Women’s Champions League,” added Ryabykh.

Despite having two more rounds to play in the Main Round, the coach has already analyzed his side’s results in this year’s campaign: “If I look back, I can confirm that Dinamo had a good season and a great success in playing for two consecutive years among the Top 8 of the handball elite. For more serious results, other conditions will be needed.”

TEXT: Márk Hegedüs