Underdogs Thüringer shine among winning heavyweightsArticle
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Overwhelming victory of FTC in Volgograd

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Underdogs Thüringer shine among winning heavyweights

Day Two of the opening Group Matches round came as an icing on the cake after Saturday’s treat, with German champions Thüringer earning a fully deserved win over more heralded Danish rivals Viborg in a rip-roaring contest in Nordhausen.

The other three favourites were much more convincing and enjoyed emphatic wins garnished by impressive performances, displaying the clinical efficiency expected of teams standing out as the odds-on favourites to reach the Main Round.

Oltchim, Krim Mercator and Ferencváros were all victorious, the latter engineering a demolition of Dinamo Volgograd which suggests that they too should be worthy Women´s EHF Champions League contenders after winning back-to-back Cup Winners´ Cup trophies in 2011 and 2012.   

Group A:
Oltchim Rm.  Vâlcea  (ROU) vs Hypo NÖ (AUT) 30:25 (15:12)

A carneval by boisterous Romanian fans in Râmnicu Vâlcea’s jam-packed arena produced a feast of breathtaking handball on the court as Oltchim and Hypo treated the audience to a cracking encounter.

Any questions how quickly Oltchim’s expensively assembled outfit, packed with natural talent and big names, can click after nine players left to make way for the much fancied new arrivals were emphatically answered in a thorough and impressive dismissal of Hypo.

Hypo’s Brazilian-flavoured team held on for as long as they could against the home side, who showed no sign of nerves after a tense start and rocketed through the last three quarters of the match. The two teams were tied at 8:8 in the 18th minute when Oltchim moved two gears up and overpowered the visitors, who showed occasional flashes of brilliance akin to teams of Hypo’s reputation and stature.

A rock-solid 6-0 defence coupled with a barrage of fast breaks sent the home team four goals clear by halftime and the lead swelled to 27:20 with 10 minutes left. Montenegrin right back Katarina Bulatović pierced through Hypo’s defence with unstoppable long-range efforts as the mobility and speed of Oltchim’s entire lineup proved too high a mountain to climb for their Austrian rivals.

With a trademark scream of joy she let out throughout a memorable campaign last season, when she won the Champions League with Budućnost Podgorica, Bulatović fired her new team into a 28:22 lead in the 53rd minute to make sure there was no last-gasp comeback for Hypo. The visitors nevertheless kept pushing and will enter the upcoming matches knowing they left it all out there against this season’s favourites.

The inspired Bulatović, who won the silver medal with Montenegro in the 2012 Olympics after her EHF Champions League triumph, led the way with 10 goals for Oltchim, followed by Portuguese Sandrina Barbosa and towering pivot Oana Manea who netted four each.

Gorica Aćimović was Hypo’s top performer in attack with six goals while Alexandra Do Nascimento, one of eight Brazilians in Hypo’s roster, chipped in with five.

Group B
RK Krim Mercator (SLO) vs U Jolidon Cluj (ROU) 28:27 (15:13)

Harder than they might have expected, Krim Mercator got their campaign on the right track with an industrious win over top flight debutants Cluj, who might have taken something from this game had they not been overawed by stage fright in their maiden appearance.

Roared on by their blue-clad faithful in the stand, Krim strolled to a 6:1 lead in the early stages as the visitors from Romania committed too many technical errors and also missed a seven-metre penalty shot.

With nothing to lose and the pressure finally of their shoulders, Cluj showed they had earned their berth in the elite with a spirited comeback which enabled them to reduce the deficit to 14:13, before Krim gave themselves some breathing space with the final goal of the first half.

Cluj threatened to pull of a major upset against the double EHF Champions League winners but Krim, who won the title in 2001 and 2003, replied with a 5:2 run which handed them a 21:18 lead in the 43rd minute. A tit-for-tat battle ensued as Cluj threw everything they had at the home side, who wobbled at times but eventually held on for a slender victory, essential in their bid to progress to the Main Round. 

Although they sorely missed injured Croatian pack leader Andrea Penezić, Krim eked out the two points as Germany’s Susann Müller took over the mantle and spearheaded the home team’s effort with nine goals while Barbara Radović supplied the much-needed support with eight. Mihaela Ani-Senocico enjoyed a fine game for Cluj with eight goals and Carmen Cartas added seven.

Group C
Dinamo Volgograd (RUS) vs FTC Rail Cargo Hungária (HUN) 21:37 (9:23)

The comprehensive drubbing Ferencváros inflicted on Dinamo Volgograd amplified the old saying that great clubs always prove their worth on the big stage. Having won a pair of successive Cup Winners’ Cup titles in the last two years, the Hungarian giants got their 2012/13 EHF Champions League season underway with a perfect blitz in Russia.

FTC lost two finals in Europe’s elite club tournament and played in three semi-finals, hence they must be dreaming of lifting the elusive trophy this season after a performance worthy of European club champions.

There will be many good rivals standing in the way on a long road, but the one-way traffic in the first half against Dinamo will have struck primal fear in the hearts of all the other big names of the 16-team competition.

Zsuzsanna Tomori blazed the trail to victory with a scorching, game-high eight goals and Spanish acquisition Nerea Penna Abaurea added six as FTC romped away to an insurmountable lead in the first half.

Dinamo knew only to well there was no way back but can at least take some positives from a decent second half, with Tatiana Khmyrova providing a quantum of solace to the home team with six goals.

Next Sunday brings a mouth-watering classic when Ferencváros are at home to 2011 Champions League winners Larvik and their comeback queen Gro Hammerseng, while Dinamo visit Swedish newcommers Sävehof.  

Group D
Thüringer HC (GER) vs Viborg HK (DEN) 34:30 (18:14)

Having collected just one point from six Group Matches in last season’s Champions League, Thüringer already surpassed that meagre accomplishment in their opening game this term with an enthralling win over more fancied Viborg.

The Danish conquerors of three titles in Europe’s premier club competition must have expected plain sailing in their opening fixture but were instead given a rough ride by a fired-up home team, which applied relentless pressure from start to finish.

The four-goal lead they built brick by brick in the first half was a telling sign of what was coming, as they dominated the entire match but for a brief spell early in the second period.

Viborg were able to tie the score at 20:20 but their comeback was short-lived as the German champions replied with a 7:2 run in the next nine minutes to send the vociferous home fans into raptures.

Despite the visiting team’s efforts to haul themselves back into the match, Thüringer HC held on comfortably to make a perfect start in a very demanding group also including holders Budućnost Podgorica and Russian contenders Zvezda Zvenigorod.

Slovakian Lýdia Jakubisová crowned a brilliant individual performance with six goals for the home team, followed by compatriot Petra Popluhárová and Austria’s Katrin Engel who scored five each.

Viborg’s Swedish force Isabel Gulden topped the scoring chart with eight goals but soft defending cost the Danish side dearly. They now find themselves under pressure to make games against seemingly tougher rivals happier hunting grounds, a challenge which might want require going back to the drawing board first.


TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / br