Oltchim, Podravka and FTC march towards Main RoundArticle
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Winning streak of Romanian champions and Hungarian qualifiers extended to three matches.

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Oltchim, Podravka and FTC march towards Main Round

Saturday’s games brought three expected outcomes as Women´s EHF Champions League favourites Oltchim Vâlcea romped to an emphatic win at Randers thanks to a steely defensive performance and an industrious attack, with many players finding the back of the net.

Croatian title holders Podravka eked out a valuable win at Cluj after a jittery match blighted by turnovers and misses, in a physical contest in front of a fervent crowd in Transylvania.

Finally, Ferencváros overcame a spirited challenge by Sweden’s Sävehof to grind out a topsy-turvy home win, showing that the Hungarian giants still have work to do if they are to be among the contenders for the elusive trophy after putting one foot into the last eight.

Group A:
Randers HK (DEN) vs Oltchim Rm. Vâlcea (ROU) 20:24 (9:11)

A rollercoaster game in which both teams played in fits and starts went Oltchim’s way as the depth of their squad proved to be a telling factor against Randers. The Romanian champions raced into a 5:1 lead in the opening 10 minutes, adhering to their coach Jakob Vestergaard’s instructions to build their attacks on speedy movement and incessant passing against a flat-looking 6-0 defence deployed by the home team.

The game followed that pattern until the 24th minute, when Oltchim’s attack came to a screeching halt and Randers, roared on by their fans, temporarily turned the match on its head with a 6:0 run in the next 14 minutes to take a 13:11 lead. But then Oltchim’s expensively assembled outfit, in which top scorer Katarina Bulatović had a quiet game, moved up a gear and produced their own 7:1 streak to go 18:14 ahead at crunch time.

The visiting team’s goalkeeper, Paula Ungureanu, underlined her superb performance with a string of brilliant saves, including three penalty shots. Randers ran out of the steam midway through the second half and Oltchim, who ended the match with eight players on the scoresheet, duly took advantage to register their third straight win.

The charge was led by the local-bred Romanian players in their impressive roster full of international stars, with Iulia Curea scoring six goals while pivot Oana Manea and French acquisition Allison Pineau added four each for the visitors.

Cristina Neagu, who engineered a lot of goals with her assists, netted three times while Bulatović had to be content with just two goals, both of them from the seven-metre line while she also missed one penalty shot. Gitte Andersen led Randers with five goals, as Sabina Jacobsen and Camilla Dalby chipped in with four apiece.

The result left Oltchim top of the group with six points and coasting towards the Main Round, while Randers in all likelihood face a tough battle with Hypo to avoid early elimination from the Women´s EHF Champions League.

“It’s disappointing to lose the match but it was satisfying to see the girls fight really hard throughout the game and we will draw a lot of positives from this match for the upcoming fixtures,” the Randers coaching staff said after the final whistle.

Group B
U Jolidon Cluj (ROU) vs HC Podravka Vegeta (CRO) 19:20 (6:10)

Podravka took a giant step towards the Main Round with a hard-fought win over Cluj Napoca in front of a patriotic Romanian crowd, who unveiled a giant flag of their country as well as Jolidon’s black and white team colours before the start of this physical contest. Podravka’s iron-clad defence allowed them to take a four-goal lead at halftime, with their inspired goalkeeper Marta Žderić performing miracles between the posts.

Anita Gaće and Serbian left back Sanja Damnjanović were unstoppable at the other end as the visitors took a 17:13 lead midway through the second half, but the home team were not to be overawed and came storming back with a four-goal blitz to get the frenetic home fans on their feet.

Žderić, who racked up a whopping total of 19 saves, then stopped a seven-metre penalty shot and Gaće did some excellent work on the right wing in front of the Cluj goal, giving the Croatian champions a 19:17 lead with 90 seconds left to avoid a dramatic finish and effectively seal the game as a contest.

The result left Podravka second in the group with four points from two games and in a buoyant mood ahead of the reverse fixtures in their group, where last season’s runners-up Györ are the odds-on favourites to finish top and progress smoothly to the last eight. Damnjanović topped the scoring with six goals for Podravka, Gaće added five while three players chipped in with two each. Florentina Cartas was Cluj’s leading scorer with five goals, followed by Maria Tivadar on four.

Group C
FTC Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) vs IK Sävehof (SWE) 31:28 (15:16)

The designated Saturday evening stroll for Ferencvaros in what should have been an easy home fixture turned out to be a stern test of their credentials and an absolute classic of a match, thanks to a fantastic performance by the unfancied Swedish team from Göteborg.

The home side got off to a slow start and although they briefly led 5:3 early on, the Hungarian giants had no reply for lightning breaks by Sävehof and their crafty incursions from the wings to the six-metre line in the first half.

It was clear the match would go down the wire when the visitors took a 9:6 lead midway through the opening period, only the individual skill of Zita Szucsánszki and Zsuzsanna Tomori keeping Ferencváros afloat until the break which could not come soon enough for them.

The see-saw battle continued in the second half as Jamina Roberts tormented FTC with a truly majestic performance, having rifled in a total of nine goals to finish the game as the joint top scorer alongside Szucsánszki.

Tomori showed signs of fatigue in the second half and with the score tied at 27:27 on 54 minutes, Szucsánszki took over the mantle and ended up as the match-winner for FTC, having scored twice without reply to put her team in the driving seat in front of a passionate home crowd. The feeling after the game was one of relief rather than elation for Ferencváros, who made it three wins out of three and are in pole position to advance into the Main Round as the group winners.

Tomori propped up Szucsánszki’s valiant effort with seven goals, while Ida Oden netted five for a brave Sävehof side who can go home with their heads high after showing an impressive fighting spirit in Dabas.

Photo: fradi.hu

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / br