Tight victory for LarvikArticle
«Go back

Tonje Larsen’s Larvik wins by two goals against a strong Spanish Itxako.

»EHF CL Channel »2010-11 Women's News

Tight victory for Larvik

In a fantastic and fairly-played first-leg of the final, both teams showed quality performances and with their determined play in the second half, Larvik celebrated a well-deserved two-goal victory.

Larvik HK - Itxako Reyno de Navarra 23-21 (8:9)

A record-breaking number of spectators, constituting a full house in the Larvik Arena, awaited two debutant teams, Larvik and Itxako, in the EHF Champions League final.

On Larvik’s side, as expected Katja Nyberg was not named in the final squad of 14 players, whilst at Itxako line-player Natalia Kurbanova was missing, which meant that the number one pivot Begoña Fernández had to play the whole 60 minutes.

Both teams started with a rock solid classical defense from the early minutes on and it was coach Tor Odvar Moen’s team that went into the lead through Larvik’s first fast break by Kari Mette Johansen.

However, Itxako started very solidly and fully focused. In defence they used a six-zero formation, something quite different from that of previous EHF Champions League games, where they opted for a far more open defence.

This defensive formation worked well and the Larvik players had problems finding a hole in the massive wall, whilst Itxako’s attacking game plan worked well. Alexandrina Barbosa showed top form as she scored on several occasions from different positions.

The away team coached by Ambros Martín turned the match and went into the lead and his side retained it when Macarena Aguilar Diaz, Itxako’s playmaker, replaced Andrea Barnó.

In that phase Itxako were able to control Larvik’s attacking and their most potent weapon, the counter attack. When Spanish line-player Begoña Fernández scored for a two-goal lead, Norwegian coach Tor Odvar Moen put his green card on the table and asked for a time out.

In their attacking, Larvik were very unlucky, as several of their shots hit the woodwork, but with the addition of right back Nora Mørk the home side got fresh wind and Tonje Larsen and co. levelled the score.

But the Spanish side remained resolute and weren’t knocked out of their rhythm. Coach Martín brought in several enthusiastic players from the bench, such as Nerea Pena and Jessica Alonso, and with them, Itxako turned the game to lead at half-time.

A new, re-born Larvik team emerged from the dressing room for the second half, and with the enthusiastic Mørk and Larsen employing their long-distance shots, the Norwegians turned the game again.

A tight game had been established, the defences becoming more wide, allowing the teams more scoring possibilities and the tension levels rose higher and higher.

Tor Odvar Moen’s team kept their rhythm and continued the fast-paced handball resulting in an Itxako time out. Coach Martín shuffled his cards again and his side took the fight to the Norwegians, but world-class Heidi Løke used the space in the attack to score several marvelous goals.

Besides her, it was back-player Tonje Larsen whose magnificent performance in both defence and attack helped Larvik to raise the goal difference between the two teams.

As in their previous games this season, the Spanish team showed big heart and fighting spirit. This time it was Carmen Martin who helped her side to come closer and to close the gap. The young right-winger scored through 7-meter penalties and from the wing.

Seven minutes before the end Itxako came as close as one goal and Larvik’s Tor Odvar Moen had to call a time out.

The one minute break helped the Norwegians to refresh their squad and Larsen and her team-mates led by three goals.

With a two-minute suspension for Gro Hammerseng in the dying minutes of the match, Itxako had a great opportunity to move closer, but Larvik remained very strong in defence and the Spaniards couldn’t take advantage. This meant that Larvik won the first-leg match but will travel to Pamplona for the return game with only a slim two-goal advantage.

TEXT: Márk Hegedüs