Buxtehuder and Cluj defy odds to progressArticle
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Buxtehuder and Cluj defy odds to progress

Having entered the qualifying tournaments as dark horses, Buxtehuder SV and Universitatea Jolidon Cluj sprung major upsets to reach the last 16 in Europe’s premier club competition, while Viborg and Zvezda lived up to expectations. The four teams joined Rail Cargo Hungaria, who clinched their own berth on Saturday, as the last five teams to qualify for the 2012-13 women’s EHF Champions League.

Group 1 in Viborg (DEN)

Former champions secure group stage berth  

Final: Viborg HK (DEN) vs Vistal Lazcpol Gdynia (POL) 26:22 (12:11)

Danish giants Viborg made a step towards rekindling past glory when they ground out a hard-earned win over their plucky Polish opponents, who put on a spirited performance but were unable to fend off a more compact rival playing on home soil. Viborg’s prize for coming out on top of this testing encounter is a Group D berth alongside defending champions Budućnost Podgorica of Montenegro, Thüringer HC of Germany and Zvezda Zvenigorod, the Russian winners of the Wild Card Tournament.

Swedish pack leader Isabelle Gulden led Viborg’s success with six goals, while Pernille Larsen and Louise Lykborg netted four each for the home side. Aleksandra Zych topped the charts for Gdynia with six goals and Slovenia’s Ana Petrinja scored five. Viborg last won the Champions League in 2010 and the 13-times Danish champions have hard work to do if they are to emulate the accomplishment of two years ago in an unforgiving 16-team competition.

3-4 placement match: LC Brühl Handball (SUI) vs Balonmano Bera Bera (ESP) 23:33 (11:17)

Taking part in this qualifying tournament turned out to be the perfect leaning curve for Swiss side Brühl, who were handed a pair of handball lessons by more experienced rivals and the trip into uncharted territoy will only have benefited them in the long term.

Having suffered a crushing defeat against Gdynia in the semi-finals, Balonmano Bera Bera came out determined to make amends and rose to the occasion with an emphatic win in the consolation prize match. Patricia Eguiara scored eight goals for Balonmano, followed by Altuna Odriozola who netted six times. Nunes Nistal and Pinedo Saenz chipped in with five each, cancelling out a valiant solo effort by Brühl’s Austrian  shooter Tamara Bosch, who topped the scoring charts with nine goals.

Group 2 in Trondheim (NOR)

Germans shock hosts to advance into group stage

Final: Byasen Trondheim (NOR) vs Buxtehuder SV (GER) 22:26 (12:14)

The runners-up of last season’s German championship staged a major upset when they overcame Norwegian giants Byasen on their own court to book a Group A spot alongside Romanian powerhoue Oltchim Valcea, Hypo Niederösterreich of Austria and Danish contenders Randers HK.

A shock didn’t seem to be on the cards in the early stages, when the home team took a 4:1 lead after seven minutes. A steady course allowed Byasen to stay 9:6 ahead in the closing stages of the first half, but they then ran into troubled waters as the visitors romped to an 8:3 run and turned the tide before the interval.

Shaken by the pendulum swinging the other way, Byasen never quite regained their composure and their fate was sealed when Buxtehuder seized a commanding 24:18 lead with eight minutes remaining.

Friederike Lütz scored six goals for the winners, as did Lone Fischer who netted three of her shots from the seven-metre penalty line. Stefanie Melbeck and Randy Bülau added four goals each for Buxtehuder. Ida Alstad, Byasen’s player of the tournament, led the way for her disjointed team with seven goals but her heroics were not enough to rescue the Norwegian side, who will be bitterly disappointed not to have reached the group stage of the competition.

3-4 placement match: WHC Metalurg (MKD) vs SECORDAK Dalfsen (NED) 34:26 (14:12)

Having had to shrug off the disappointment of being eliminated from the Champions League group stage reckoning by an emphatic 29:19 defeat to Byasen, Macedonians WHC Metalurg recovered well to claim third place with a convincing win over their Dutch rivals.
Nataša Mladenovska and Dragana Pecevska steered Metalurg with six goals each, whie their Croatian team mate Sonja Bašić added five. Yara Maria Nibeot stood out for SECORDAK with five goals.

Like the other third-placed teams from the three qualifying tournaments, Metalurg will carry on in the third round of the Cup Winners’ Cup while Dalfsen will join the remaining fourth-placed teams in the competition’s second round.  

Group 3 in Cluj Napoca (ROU)

The hosts delight their vociferous fans with a pleasant surprise, defeating a more heralded opponent.

Final: U Jolidon Cluj (ROU) vs Rostov-Don (RUS) 23:22 (13:11)  

Rostov were made to feel the full brunt of the old saying that lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same spot, having seen lady luck turn her back on them in a tumultuous final after a fortuitous semi-final win.

After enjoying a see-saw 29:28 goal win over Serbs RK Zaječar in the semis, the Russians were given a taste of their own medicine as Cluj made it third time lucky – having failed in their previous two attempts when they were eliminated by Skopje and Viborg respectively.

Florentina Cartas was the hero of the day for Universitatea Jolidon Cluj with nine goals and Ani Senocico rifled in five for the home team, who will join last season’s finalist Györi Audi ETO of Hungary, Slovenia’s Krim Mercator and Croatian champions Podravka Vegeta Koprivnica in Group B. Marina Yartseva complemented her fine semi-final performance with another superb display for Rostov, garnished by seven goals for the Russians. Vladlena Bobrovnikova and Regina Shymkute scored five each for the losing finalists.

3-4 placement match:

Muratpasa Belediyesi SK Antalya (TUR) vs RK Zaječar (SRB) 27:35 (13:8)

Zaječar, heavily fancied to reach the group stage of the competition after two futile attempts, saved their best for last but it was to little too late for anything except the scant consolation of clinching a third-round berth in the Cup Winners Cup.

Following their heartbreaking semi-final defeat to Rostov, the Serbian team appeared to be heading for another shipwreck against rank outsiders Muratpasa, who stunned them with dogged defending to take a surprise five-goal lead at halftime.

Natural talent came to the fore in a one-sided second half, when Zaječar scored a staggering 27 goals and conceded only 14 thanks to an effervescent performance by fresh Croatian signing Maja Zebić, the game’s top scorer with 10 goals. Hungarian Anett Karmen Sopronyi added six, while Tunisia’s Ines Khoulidi also scored six for the Turkish side.    

Wild Card Tournament:

Issy Paris Hand (FRA) vs Zvezda Zvenigorod (RUS) 20:26 (7:11)

Although the three-team round robin tournament was theoretically wide open and there for the taking before the throw-off, the gulf in class between the two teams was everywhere to be seen as Zvezda wrapped up a fine weekend with an emphatic win over the hosts.

Clearly, the crucial step was beating Leipzig 26:21 on Saturday and Zvezda headed into the clash with Issy Paris relaxed and buoyed by the fact that even a four-goal defeat would be enough to see them through.
The Russians raced into a 7-0 lead and simply went through the motions until the final whistle, allowing the home team to add some respectability to the score by halftime.

The French team salvaged some pride with a gritty performance in the second half but a string of superb saves by the Zvezda goalkeeper denied them a dramatic finish which was never on the cards anyway.

Anastasia Lobach carried Zvezda with six goals to her name and a distinctly balanced team effort saw three other players score three goals each while a total of five netted two apiece. Mariama Signate stood out for Issy Paris Hand with six goals. Issy left winger Coralie Lassource acknowledged that a dreadful start by her team determined the course of the match: "We put ourselves in a bad situation from the start, being seven goals behind right at the beginning. Even if we were better later on, the Russians showed why they were European champions in 2008. When you've got someone like Sidorova or Postnova in front of you, it's very hard to win.”

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević /br