Norwegian feast or Spanish fiesta?Article
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Preview of the second leg match of the EHF Women’s Champions League Final.

»EHF CL Channel »2010-11 Women's News

Norwegian feast or Spanish fiesta?

The last and decisive match of the prestigious EHF Champions League will take place in Pamplona, Spain, this weekend. The home team of Itxako Reyno De Navarra lost the first leg match against Larvik HK only by two goals in Norway. This might give them a realistic chance of winning the trophy for the first time ever in front of their own supporters.

But Larvik also stand a good chance, as they’ve had very strong away performances over the entire season. A tight and exciting return match is expected in Pabellón Anaitasuna de Pamplona.

Itxako Reyno de Navarra (ESP) vs. Larvik HK (NOR)
Saturday 14 May 2011, 19:15 hrs (local time)
First leg: Larvik HK - Itxako Reyno de Navarra 23:21 (8:9)

As expected, the first leg match in Norway brought an exciting and tight game with top quality handball from both sides. The slim two-goal Larvik victory sets up a grand final in Pamplona, Spain, which is not the usual home court of Itxako.

The Spaniards train and play in their home arena in Estella, but due to spectator limits they decided to move to the bigger hall of Pamplona for the Final: "I don’t know how different it will feel to play there instead of our more "cosy" home arena. For sure we expect a fantastic backing from 3,000 loudly cheering fans, who will be with us until the very end of the match. This will compensate for not playing in our arena," said Itxako coach Ambros Martín to

"However, after Larvik won in the infamous hall Budućnost in Podgorica, Montenegro, they demonstrated that they can succeed in any away environment. So at the end it will be down to the two teams to decide the winner," added Martín.

For Larvik’s coach Tor Odvar Moen "it doesn’t matter where we play, as we always believe in and play for victory."

The Norwegian coach was very happy after the first leg match: "I feel happy that we won the game. It is an EHF Champions League final and no one believed it could be an easy walkover. We faced a skilled and tactically well-prepared Itxako team. I think we played a relatively solid defence, but had a lack of quality when the ball was in our own hands."

Moen continued: "We were a little bit impatient when we had possibilities for counter attacks and were also a little too static in our position attacks. But all in all we are very happy that we won the match, as it builds even more confidence within our team."

Despite having lost only by the slim margin of two goals, Itxako’s coach Martín was not happy over the result in Norway: "First, we lost the game when we had the objective and the intention of winning. Second, we now start with a handicap of 2 goals, and third, we had chances to win and didn’t implement the final critical details of our game plan. But on the other hand, we found out that even without playing our best game we can still be close, very close to Larvik. We will need to improve."

As Larvik prefer a quick game plan with their most potent weapon, counter attacks, Martín’s team had to run a lot during the match, which made his players extremely tired after the first leg match: "We were feeling very exhausted as we are not used to such high speed in our matches," Itxako`s Patri Pinedo confirmed.

"Nevertheless I feel pleased about the outcome. Still the pressure is on Larvik and the chances are 51% to 49% for them after winning the first match with two goals," added the left-back.

Neither of the coaches expect any big surprises after the first leg, Moen thinks "that both teams showed that they know very much about each other and it will not be easy to reveal big surprises. It will be a tough match both physically and mentally, that’s for sure!"

His counterpart Martín awaits "no surprises, as both teams know each other perfectly. The difference will be that we have to win and must take more risks in order to clinch victory."

The Spanish coach feels much confidence prior to the decisive game: "Our shape is good, we are doing well. We know exactly what we will need, what we want and how to achieve it. We know the fine details of our opponent, we are aware of their strengths and we found that, even without playing at our best, we were close to victory."

The Larvik side is showing a positive attitude before entering the court in Pamplona: "We are only thinking positively about the return match. It is our first chance to win the big EHF CL trophy and our motivation is perfect," confirmed Moen.

In the Norwegian coach’s opinion the key for victory will be: "First of all the will to win! As the qualities of the teams are relatively equal, the mental part of the game will be very important. But we will work hard to be more efficient in attack and build on our solid defensive base."

Martín’s recipe for success is clearly put into words: "Cool heads, quick legs and arms and acting cleverly on the court."

TEXT: Márk Hegedüs