Lucky Györ in the final despite defeatArticle
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Thrilling second semi-final at Veszprém: Vâlcea out though they won by 25:24

Lucky Györ in the final despite defeat

What a thriller, what a match, what an atmosphere during and after the final whistle: Attended by more than 5000 spectators at the Veszprém Arena Audi ETO Györ managed it in the dying seconds to reach their third final of the Women’s EHF Champions League. They could celebrate despite a 24:25 (10:14) defeat in the second leg against Oltchim Vâlcea from Romania, as the Hungarian champions had won the first leg in Bucharest 24:22.

After their the final whistle the Györ players were lying on the floor, dancing on the court – and started the final party with their fans right after the match. On the other hand, Vâlcea could not recognize what had happened in the final minutes, when they gave a six-goal lead from their hands.

And  even 65 seconds before the end, when Katarina Bulatović scored the 25:23, they were virtually in the final, but missed their last chance, after former world handball player of the year, Heidi Løke stroke for the final result.

Györ coach Ambros Martín have reached his second personal final after 2011 with Spanish side Larvik, Løke have made it to her third straight EHF Champions League final after winning 2011 with Larvik and losing the 2012 edition against Podgorica. Györ now have their third chance after 2009 (final defeat against Viborg) and 2012 to win their first international title after additionally failing in five other EHF European Cup finals.

Their opponent will be decided on Saturday in the second leg of the match RK Krim Mercator vs. Larvik HK in Ljubljana. The Slovenian club won the first leg at Larvik 24:22.

Vâlcea’s elimination in the semi-final means that no player will defend the title in this competition – the last option was Bulatović, now no former Budućnost player will be in the final. And Vâlcea’s coach Jabob Vestergaard missed his third EHF Champions League final after twice lifting the trophy with Viborg in 2009 and 2010.

5000 spectators in the sold-out Veszprém Arena were standing as one behind their team – and they were attending a historic match, as players from all nations which won medals at the last Olympic Games (Norway, Montenegro, Spain), EHF EURO events (Montenegro, Norway, Hungary and additionally fourth ranked Serbia) and world championships (Norway, France, Spain) were on the court.

And surprisingly the Romanian champions – finalists in 2010 – were dominant in the first half – and even until the final stages. Despite the brilliant support from the stands, Györ started nervously in attack, and Vâlcea were as cold as ice. After only five minutes the goals deficit from the first leg was caught up, virtually visitors were in the final after nine minutes for the first time, leading 5:2. And even more surprising the first half was not imprinted by the top scorers Bulatović and Anita Görbicz (Györ), who only added one penalty goal to her tally in the first 30 minutes.

It were the goalkeepers – mostly the two best in the world – who set the signs: When the halftime whistle was blown Norwegian Olympic champion Katrine Lunde had eight saves on their account (14 at the end), even topped by Spanish Silvia Navarro with an incredible number of 12 saves after 30 minutes (17 in total). She – and strong line player Oana Manea – were the key figures in the Valcea match play. And both numbers 77 imprinted the game with strong defence actions and a big number of goals: Allison Pineau (Valcea) and Andrea Lekić (Györ) with three strikes each before the break, when Oltchim still virtually  were in the final by a 14:10 lead.

And Györ could not turn the match straight at the re-start – in contrast: Vâlcea boosted their confidence by their first five-goal margin of the game at 11:16. But with their fans as their “eighth player” Györ came closer again – and caused a time-out of Vestergaard after only nine minutes when the advance had melted to only three goals at 15:18. And only one Vâlcea goal later, Martin took his green card to re-present the tactics of the host. But still his team lacked efficiency and precision in attack, causing too many unforced errors or failed by their chances against solid rock Vâlcea defence.

And the body language even gestured helplessness, especially when Görbicz missed their first penalty shot against Navarro – and on the other side Bulatović scored her first field goal for the first ever six goals advance. And Martin had no other option to stop the downswing by his second time-out in minute 49.

And as the time ran for them, Vâlcea waited patiently, but still with more passion than the hosts, who was struggling hard in every attack. But suddenly Györ managed to turn the roller coaster, reanimating their hopes by three straight goals to 21:24. Vestergaard called his squad for the final time-out of the match  five minutes before the end – virtually still in the final. And adding two more goals to a 5:0 series Györ made Vâlcea surrender, lacking all spirit and ideas they had before. And when Spanish international Alexandrina Barbosa caused a turnover 15 seconds before the end, the deal was sealed – and the long party started.

Best scorers were Løke, Barbosa and Manea with five goals each.

Photo: Uroš Hočevar

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br