Away win brings Larvik to their second finalArticle
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Krim dreams shattered by unstoppable Norwegian champions, who now face Györ for the trophy

Away win brings Larvik to their second final

Heidi Løke’s dream came true: After the Olympic, world and European champion reached the finals of the EHF Champions League on Thursday with her Hungarian club Audi ETO Györ after a thriller against Oltchim, she will face her country-fellows and former team-mates of Larvik HK in the finals in May – the third straight final for Løke.

The Norwegian champions made it to the final thanks to an unexpected 27:19 (13:9) away win at Krim Mercator in Ljubljana on Saturday evening after losing the first leg 22:24 at home. Larvik reached the finals for the second time after 2011, when they had won the trophy against Spanish side Itxako SD.

And now Larvik will face the same coach like in 2011 in the final as Ambros Martín now is coaching Györ. The Norwegians had missed the 2012 finals after two defeats against later-on winner Budućnost Podgorica.

Like in the first semi of Györ and Oltchim none of the teams won their home match, Györ had lost at home 24:25 after winning 24:22 in Valcea.
Keys to the Larvik success at Ljubljana were the greater passion, the lower number of mistakes, seven goals of top scorer Isabel Blanco and goalkeeper Cecilie Leganger (14 saves in total).

Krim missed the great chance for their sixth participation in the EHF Champions League final after winning the trophy in 2001 and 2003 and additionally playing the finals in 1999, 2004 and 2006 and deserved lost the match even this clear.

Krim were constantly down after a good start and could continue on the high level they had shown one week ago, while Larvik rose like Phoenix.
The Slovenians  had a perfect start, though they still had to replace injured Swedish shooter Linnea Torstensson.

By leading 4:1 after seven minutes, the Slovenians had increased the virtual gap to already five goals after their 24:22 away win at Larvik in the first leg. But suddenly their flow ended, while on the other side Larvik goalkeeper Cecilie Leganger (former Krim player in the 2003/04 season) improved.

Krim lacked concentration in attack, while the impressive Norwegian middle block Tonje Larsen and Gro Hammerseng blocked the way of the Krim shooters. The team of Tone Tiselj lost their patience, concentration and precision completely. And as their defenders were too far away from the Larvik attackers, the match turned around within minutes.

Boosted by the Leganger saves, Larvik marched ahead, leaving Tiselj behind clueless. Even a time-out and a goalkeeper change from Jelena Grubišić (hero of the first leg) to Sergeja Stefanišin at 4:7 did not stop the downswing – in contrast: Larvik continued their series to incredible eight consecutive goals at 9:4. Their famous counter-attacks worked like a Swiss clockwork, aside line player Isabel Blanco was unstoppable at six meters.

Krim were well below par, but finally returned, when Grubisic saved a penalty shot, spreading confidence – and at 9:12 everything was open again, the overall deficit was only one goal.

But despite the intermediate series of success, Krim had not gained confidence when returning from the dressing rooms. A double strike of Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth and Hammerseng secured another six goal advance at 15:9 – and Larvik were as cold as ice in the cauldron, filled by nearly 5000 spectators.

In contrast to the first leg, when Ljubljana were in lead all the time – including a seven goal margin at the break – Larvik had full control of the re-match. Coach Ole Gustav Gjekstad adapted his defence to every Krim tactics, and the Slovenians did not find the means to go through this offensive attacking wall from Norway including their highly fast “reverse gear”.

At 20:13 in minute 46 the advance were seven goals for the first time – and Krim did not set the sign that the sign that they could manage to turn the match around again, missing passion and causing too many unforced errors in attack.

And latest at 16:24 in minute 54 their elimination was confirmed, while Larvik even forged ahead to the first double-figured score at 26:16. The host had surrendered completely, while the handful of Larfvik fans in the arena were shouting “finale, finale”.

Photo: Uroš Hočevar

TEXT: Björn Pazen / br