Randers complete mission impossibleArticle
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Review of the Women's EHF Champions League Group Matches Round 6

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Randers complete mission impossible

Against all odds Randers HK managed to qualify for the main round of the Women´s EHF Champions League after an astonishing performance against Hypo Niederösterreich, as the group phase ended Sunday. Krim Mercator, Zvezda Zvenigorod and Buducnost Podgorica took the last remaining positions in the bowl for the draw on Tuesday in Vienna.

Group A

Randers HK (DEN) vs. Hypo NÖ (AUT) 29-20 (15-9)

It looked like mission impossible for Randers HK before their home match against Hypo. A win of at least seven goals, maybe eight, in order to get past the Austrians and into the main round were the odds the Danish champions were up against. Through their nine goal win, though, the Danes made the miracle come true.

Randers opened by taking a 2-0 lead, but when Hypo took over the lead at 3-5, the visitors seemed to be in control. Through enormous will power, an effective defence and a series of fast break goals, the hosts changed to cause of the game, and once they got ahead again, they did not give the lead away.

Instead they increased it to six goals a half time, and loudly supported by their home crowd they continued in the second half in the same way they had ended the first 30 minutes. An impressive performance by Brazilian international Chana Mason in the Randers goal contributed to a lead which was at 13, when it was at its highest, and as Hypo did not manage to get any closer than a nine goal deficit, there was never any real doubt of the outcome.

“People deemed us out of the competition already after four rounds, but people will have to remember that a Champions League group phase consists of six rounds, and when you win by nine, you deserve to go on in the tournament”, Randers coach Jan Leslie told the Danish TV station TV2 Sport after the win. 

Right back Camilla Dalby scored eight goals for Randers who accompany Oltchim Valcea to the main round. Carvalho Caneiro Diniz hit the net five times for Hypo who will now have to be content with a place in the Cup Winners' Cup.

Oltchim Valcea (ROU) vs. Buxtehuder SV (GER) 30-22 (18-10)

In spite of having nothing at stake in the last round, having not only secured the access to the Main Round, but also the first place in the group, Valcea did not slow down in their last match. At least not in the first half, where the Romanians clearly put the difference between top and bottom of the group on display. Buxtehuder only managed to follow the home team until the score was 3-2. From then on Valcea just increased their lead which was eight goals at half time.

Being sure to cruise through the group without losing a single point, the hosts slowed down a bit in the second half, but not more than they were just able to also win the last 30 minutes.

Katarina Bulatovic scored six goals for Oltchim Valcea, the same number as Jana Stapelfeldt scored for Buxtehude.

While Valcea finished top of the group, Buxtehude did not manage to pick up any points in the EHF Champions League this season, and for the rest of the season they can focus on the Bundesliga, as there will be no more European handball for the northern German women's side.

Group B

RK Krim Merkator (SLO) vs. HC Podravka Vegeta (CRO) 28-22 (14-12)

With Györi AUDI ETO having won the group without giving one single point away, the second place was to be decided in the direct duel between Krim Merkator and Podravka Vegeta. Podravka had won the first meeting 25-22, so Krim needed a four goal win – or a three goal victory, if they could keep the Croatians under 22 goals – in order to proceed. Any other result would mean Podravka in the main round.

Krim were leading by the magic three goals no less than four times in the first half, but Podravka kept closing the gap, and they could not really be discontent with the half time score, although they were down by two.

In the second half, however, Podravka got increasing scoring problems against Jelena Grubisic who got better and better in the Krim goal.

Furthermore, as Krim seemed to have more ideas in their attacking play than the Croatian champions, they could increase the distance throughout the second half, and as Susann Müller made it 28-21 with four minute left in a situation, where Krim were only four players against six on the court, the last bit of doubt was removed.

Martin Berenguer and Susann Müller scored 6 each for Krim, while Podravka had their top scorer in Sanja Damnjanovic with nine goals.

Group C

Dinamo Volgograd (RUS) vs. IK Sävehof (SWE) 25-30 (12-13)

In this group, Larvik and FTC Rail Cargo – in that succession - had already booked the tickets for the main round.

However, it meant a lot to the self confidence of the Swedish champions that they finally managed to get a win in their last attempt after having improved over the previous couple of matches. And as a matter of fact, after a narrow one goal lead at half time, they were only two goals short on leapfrogging the Russians to take third position in the group and qualify for the Cup Winners' Cup.

Ida Oden was most scoring player for Sävehof and in the match, with 9 goals. Viktoria Borshchenko scored 6 times for Dinamo.

Group D

Thüringer HC (GER) vs. Zvezda Zvenigorod (RUS) 20-23 (7-13)

Zvezda Zvenigorod took the first place in the tightest group, where three teams were fighting for the two tickets for the main round, and through their three goal win in Nordhausen they took ruling champions Buducnost with them to the round of the last eight, while Thüringer HC draw the short straw in the trio.

At the beginning it looked like an easy win for Zvezda, as the hosts had huge scoring problems. It took seven minutes, before Katrin Engel scored Thüringer´s first goal, on a 7 metre shot, reducing to 1-2, and another.six and a half minute, before Lydia Jukubisova scored their first goal in open play, reducing to 2-7.

The visitors continued to dominate the game for the rest of the first half which they won by six, but during the second half, an improving home team managed to move closer and closer and to equalise to 19-19 with nine minutes left. At the end, though, Zvezda proved to have the better nerves and landed an all in all deserved 23-20 win.

2218 spectators saw Liudmilla Postnova score seven goals for Zvenigorod, while Jakubisova and Kerstin Wohbold scored five each for Thüringer HC.

Buducnost Podgorica (MNE) vs. Viborg HK (DEN) 26-23 (11-10)

Zvezda Zvenigorod´s win against Thüringer HC earlier in the day meant that Buducnost were sure to accompany Zvezda to the main round from second position, and as Viborg were sure to finish last in the group, only the honour was at stake this Sunday evening in Podgorica.

However, as Viborg seemed determined to erase the zero in their point account, the match turned out to be a rather tense affair for large parts. After an equal start Buducnost took a four goal lead, but the Danes got back into the game, and at half time the distance was only one goal.

In the second half then, the Montenegrin favourites managed to create a five goal lead, but four fast Vibog goals reduced the difference to one goal, before two goals from Milena Knezevic in the last two minutes secured the three goal win for the hosts.

Knezevic was also most scoring player in the match with nine goals, while veteran Rikke Skov scored five times for the guests.

Buducnost, the Women's EHF Champions League winners of 2011/12 thereby proceed to the main round from second position in the group, while Viborg, the champions from 2006, 2009 and 2012 are leaving the tournament without a point.

TEXT: Peter Bruun / br