Spanish - Norwegian duel in the FinalsArticle
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Larvik celebrates victory in Podgorica, while Itxako draws in Hungary.

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Spanish - Norwegian duel in the Finals

Audi ETO Győr (HUN) vs. Itxako Reyno De Navarra (ESP) 24:24 (10:12)

Spanish Itxako gave another brilliant performance to overcome Győri Audi ETO in Hungary and achieved the club’s greatest success so far, the EHF Champions League final. The Spaniards played their best game of the whole EHF Champions League season and the Hungarians were never in position to really believe in the qualification during the 60 minutes.

In a loud and packed Magvassy Mihály sports hall, both teams started this second-leg match of the EHF Champions League semi-final very nervously, with several shots going wide of the target.

Győr’s Katrine Lunde Haraldsen showed great heroics between the poles and although the Spaniards took a two-goal lead, it was she who kept the Hungarian side in the game.

As in their first leg match, Itxako used a fast-moving and stable defence, and in attack, it was their Portuguese international, Alexandrina Barbosa, who directed the Itxako game.

With her, and with Macarena Aguilar entering the court after 10 minutes, the away team cleverly executed its chances and Ambros Martín’s players scored several times from wing positions or their attacks ended in 7-meter penalties.

Due to both defences finding their stability, it was a low-scoring affair in the first 30 minutes, with Itxako only conceding 10 goals.

Győr had massive problems with the stable defence of their opponent, and passes to line player Simona Spiridion didn’t work well and their wing players, Orsolya Vérten and Katarina Mravikova, were not noticeably getting any balls in attack.

It was defensive specialist Àgnes Hornyák who took more attacking responsibility and with her goals the Hungarian champions remained on level terms with the Spaniards, who then opened-up a two-goal lead at half time, meaning a seven-goal advantage on aggregate.

In the second half, Győr made great efforts to edge nearer to close the gap, and the Hungarians quickly equalized by fast counter attacks started by their goalkeeper Katalin Pálinger. Itxako’s line-player, Begoña Fernández, got her second two-minute penalty in the early minutes of the second half, so a great possibility arose to turn the game.

However, the Spaniards showed excellent fighting spirit. They remained very strong in defence and continued with their clever game play, whilst Csaba Konkoly’s team struggled on long distance shots, as their back-court players Eduarda Amorim, Aurelia Brădeanu and Ana Gros could not find their way to the goal of Silvia Navarro.

Itxako were still leading by two goals after 40 minutes and Győr went all-out, opening-up their own defence to disturb the Spanish attacks much earlier, an unusual and risky solution against the fast-moving Spaniards.

Martín’s team remained fully-focused in both defence and attack, and as Macarena Aguilar continued to direct her side’s game marvelously, Itxako remained on full throttle and kept their important lead in the away hall in Hungary.

After 50 minutes, Győr’s players were, in total, 7 goals behind and with this scoreline, not many of them seemed to believe in victory.

Five minutes before the end, Konkoly’s team equalized to 21:21, meaning that five goals were missing for the home side to force extra time.

Budućnost Podgorica (MNE) vs. Larvik HK (NOR) 24:27 (10:15)

Norwegian Larvik HK are ready for their first EHF Champions League final after winning 27:24 away against Budućnost in the second leg match of the semi-final.

Larvik's advancement to the final was never actually threatened in today's settlement in Montenegro. The match was even in the first part of the first half, but once Larvik selected top gear there was no question about the winner, and the Norwegians led by 5 goals at the break.

After a strong start in the second half Larvik were nine goals in front, and the match was effectively decided. A little fluctuation in attack helped the Montenegrins to come closer, but Larvik celebrated a clear victory, just as in their home game.

"This is a fantastic day for all who are involved with Larvik HK! Everyone - players, volunteer group, administration, partners and fans. The girls did a fantastic job and everyone involved in this journey we are on merit a big thank you!" said coach Tor Odvar Moen after the game.

"I sat at the press conference along with Linn Kristin Riegelhuth and felt completely empty, but we are so happy! This is a big day for the club and Norwegian handball in general. Today we celebrate and look forward to the final, " added a happy coach.

Competition Schedule

The draw for home right in the EHF Women's Champions League final will br drawn on Tuesday 19 April 2011.

TEXT: Márk Hegedüs