Krim finish top despite Oltchim defeatArticle
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Semi-finals pairings set as Györ takes on Oltchim and Krim face Larvik.

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Krim finish top despite Oltchim defeat

A truly spectacular match between Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea and Krim Mercator drew the curtain on the Women’s EHF Champions League Main Round and set the stage for a pair of mouth-watering semi-finals.

Oltchim finished on a high note with a three-goal win but Krim, ironically, had more to cheer about at the end of the absorbing contest as the result meant they finished top of the group with a better head-to-head record than the Romanian title holders, whom they beat in the reverse fixture at home by four goals.

Krim will face 2011 champions Larvik in the two-legged semis while Oltchim will take on favourites and last season’s finalists Györ, the only unbeaten team in the competition with 12 wins out of 12.

The first leg is scheduled for 6/7 April as both second ranked teams (Larvik and Oltchim) of the main round will play the hosts, the matches of the second leg will follow one week later.

Group 2
Oltchim Râmnicu Vâlcea (ROU) vs Krim Mercator (SLO) 23:20 (9:12)

It was only fitting that these two teams drew the Main Round of Europe’s premier club handball competition to a close and they lit up the stage with a cracking encounter which kept fans on the edge of their seats and many of them on their feet from start to finish.

Krim raced into an early 2:0 lead before Oltchim, who needed to win by at least four goals to overhaul their deficit in the head-to-head record with the Slovenians, engineered a 7:1 run to jump into the driving seat.

The visitors, however, had other ideas and turned the match on its head again as Susann Müller led an unstoppable charge to put Krim 12:9 in front at halftime.

The opening 30 minutes produced a tough and physical battle in which Oltchim’s Katarina Bulatović nor Krim’s Andrea Penezić were largely subdued as both backcourt sharpshooters were marked tightly.

Krim seemed to be home and dry early in the second half after extending their advantage to 15:11 in the 40th minute, but Oltchim refused to lie down and showed why the started the season as one of the favourites to win the EHF Champions League.

Roared on by their frenetic fans, the home side had Krim on the ropes after a 10:2 run gave them a 21:17 with 10 minutes left, but the visitors launched one last fightback which ultimately proved decisive.

Their Croatian goalkeeper Jelena Grubišić saved several sitters, including a penalty, enabling her team mates to cut the deficit to 21:20. Oltchim scored the game’s last two goals to set up a frantic finale, as they had the final possession but could not set up an attack with only six seconds left on the clock.

Still, Oltchim were given a standing ovation by their supporters after the final whistle, having romped into the last four after losing their opening two Main Round games. They’ve had to battle adversity as Cristina Neagu suffered a long-term injury and Ionela Stanca left the club over unpaid wages, but Sunday’s impressive performance showed that even the most unlikely resources are crucial for the depth of their roster.

Left wing Ramona Farcau, who had scored a total of seven goals in the European top flight this season until Sunday, equalled the tally in a single game and one that she will remember for a long time after netting seven times against Krim.

Right wing Iulia Managarova chipped in with five goals for Oltchim, while Penezić and German middle back Nina Wörz scored four each for Krim. The hosts will also rue missing three penalty shots and two of them at crunch time, when Grubišić shone between the posts to keep her team afloat.

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljević / br