Thüringer HC, FCM blow Group 1 wide openArticle
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ROUND REVIEW: With four from six rounds being played, just two points separate Thüringer HC, FC Midtjylland and Vardar Skopje in Main Round Group 1 after the former two carved out important victories on Sunday night

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Thüringer HC, FCM blow Group 1 wide open

Sunday’s Group 1 doubleheader produced a pair of superb games and generated what is shaping up to be a tantalising three-way battle for two berths in the Women's EHF FINAL4 on 3 and 4 May in Budapest.

Thüringer HC went top of the group after an emphatic 32:26 win at Savehof, who are out of contention, while Vardar suffered their first EHF Champions League defeat of the season after they were soundly beaten 24:25 at Midtjylland, who hauled themselves back into the hunt.

The remaining two weekends in the main round thus guarantee that the race for a top-two finish will go down to the wire, with Thüringer able to book their ticket next weekend when they are at home to Vardar.

Group 1

FC Midtjylland (DEN) vs WHC Vardar SCBT (MKD) 25:24 (15:9)

The clash between these two teams was always going to be a classic and it duly lived up to expectations after it also produced fireworks in the reverse fixture a fortnight ago, when Vardar came out on top by the odd goal (24:23).

The emerging force from FYR Macedonia very nearly staged yet another late comeback but there was to be no Houdini-like escape act this time, as valiant Midtjylland fired on all cylinders for 45 minutes and carved out a massive 19:12 advantage in the opening three quarters of the game.

Vardar raced into a 4:2 lead as their Croatian winger Maja Zebic made a flying start to the game, but things soon went wrong for the visitors when she picked up a couple of two-minute suspensions and Midtjylland took full advantage to romp 12:7 ahead.

The home team’s left back Stine Jorgensen was unstoppable in either half and finished as the game’s top scorer with eight goals, but the Danish side also thrived from a string of excellent saves from their outstanding German goalkeeper Sabine Englert.

Vardar looked out for the count midway through the second half before their Serbian playmaker Andrea Lekic and French left wing Siraba Dembele instigated a trademark late fightback which bailed out the Macedonian champions several times this season.

However, Midtjylland’s left wing Fie Woller scored two crucial late goals and Jorgensen capped her brilliant individual performance with her team’s final strike to make the score 25:23 in the last minute and put the game out of Vardar’s reach.

Still a work in progress after signing 10 new players at the start of the season, Vardar now face a daunting trip to Thüringer HC while Midtjylland will be looking forward to visiting eliminated Savehof, with the battle for two Women's EHF FINAL4 berths from this group heading for a thrilling climax.

IK Savehof (SWE) vs Thüringer HC (GER) 26:32 (13:16)

Thuringer made a big step towards the Women's EHF FINAL4 after overcoming a jittery start to beat the Swedish champions and knock them out of the reckoning for a top-two finish in what has turned out to be a fiercely competitive group.

The German side now top the group with six points from four games, one more than second-placed Vardar and two ahead of Midtjylland with all three teams vying for the two tickets to Budapest.

Needing a win to stay in the hunt for a spot in the May 3/4 showpiece event in the Hungarian capital, Savehof made a brighter start and raced into a 4:1 lead in front of their noisy fans in Partille.

But the home team’s joy was short-lived as the THC regained their composure quickly and having scored three goals without reply to draw level, they took control of the match thanks to another 3:0 run which fired them 12:9 ahead in the closing stages of the first half.

Savehof battled hard to stay in the match after the break but the visitors were able to maintain their three-goal advantage and then engineered a crucial breakthrough midway through the second period, which gave them a 27:20 lead in the 49th minute.

There was no way back for Savehof, whose defensive frailties once again dashed their hopes of upsetting more heralded opponents as they conceded too many goals on home court.

The competition’s top scorer Ida Oden put in another impressive performance and finished with a game-high nine goals for Savehof while centre back Jamina Roberts added five, but the home side sorely missed the shooting prowess of the versatile Jenny Alm.

Nadja Nadgornaja and Franziska Mietzner led a balanced Thüringer effort with six goals each, playmaker Alexandrina Cabral Barbosa netted five and Sonja Frey chipped in with four.

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / ts