Buducnost through, Group 1 still openArticle
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ROUND REVIEW: The match between Thüringer HC and Vardar ends 24:24, while Larvik's win 28:22 against Krim Mercator clear Buducnost's passage to the Women's EHF FINAL4 in Budapest

»EHF CL Channel »2013-14 Women's News

Buducnost through, Group 1 still open

Buducnost Podgorica booked their Women's EHF FINAL4 berth on Saturday without throwing a ball as Larvik’s emphatic 28:22 win over Krim Mercator left them with an unassailable advantage over both teams ahead of Sunday’s showdown with holders Györ in the Moraca Hall.

However, with Buducnost virtually sealing their berth already last weekend alongside Gyoö as Krim faced an almost impossible task of beating Larvik and then thrashing Buducnost by 16 goals or more, the real drama unfolded in Group 1 where a tug-of-war between Thüringer HC and Vardar ended in an enthralling 24:24 stalemate.

The result means that both teams can still qualify for the showpiece event in Budapest in May but with FC Midtjylland, who face IK Sävehof on Sunday, there is a third in the mix that is also chasing a berth.

Group 1: Thüringer HC (GER) vs WHC Vardar SCBT (MKD) 24:24 (12:15)

This classic was definitely not for the faint-hearted.

If Thüringer HC miss out on an EHF FINAL4 berth at the end of what has been a gripping main round tussle, they can still look back with pride on a monumental effort against stronger and more heralded rivals in a fiercely competitive group.

Against Vardar, they missed their first match point but received a standing ovation from a sellout crowd of 2,218 in their Nordhausen Arena after conjuring an impressive comeback.

The opening 15 minutes produced one-way traffic as Vardar romped into a 12:5 lead on the back of a majestic performance by their Serbian playmaker Andrea Lekic, who ripped through the home team’s defence at will and scored eight goals in a memorable first-half performance.

However, her one-woman show was not enough to make the rest of the match plain sailing for Vardar, whose attack ground to a halt as Thüringer HC, led by the unstoppable Nadja Nadgornaja, slashed the deficit to two goals and then nosed ahead 17:16 in the 37th minute.

Vardar regained control after Montenegro right wing Jovanka Radicevic scored three quickfire goals without reply, but the home team hit straight back and eked out a deserved draw in a frantic last 10 minutes, when Vardar again threw away a two-goal advantage.

However, the Macedonian champions were also able to breathe a sigh of relief as Anja Althaus missed a pair of six-metre sitters which could have swung the tie Thüringer’s way.

The effervescent Lekic could only do so much against an aggressive THC defence in the second half but still finished with a game-high 10 goals and Radicevic added four for the visitors.

Nadgornaja led the home side with seven goals while Alexandrina Cabral Barbosa, Svenja Huber and Franziska Mietzner chipped in with four each.

The result left the three-way battle for two tickets to Budapest wide open ahead of FC Midtjylland’s visit to eliminated Sävehof on Sunday, with a myriad of mind-boggling combinations still in play.

Both Thüringer and Vardar will advance with a match to spare if Midtjylland lose in Sweden, but any other outcome will mean that the race goes down to the wire on the final weekend, when Vardar are at home to Sävehof and Thüringer visit Midtjylland.

"We won a crucial point in a match which was physically exhausting," Lekic told reporters after the strength-sapping contest.

"We were ahead clearly but then lacked the stability to keep the distance. We need to be more consistent but we are still a work in progress and also have our fate in our hands," she added.

Thüringer coach Herbert Müller was overjoyed with his team’s effort, although he was left ruing the missed opportunity to secure a Women's EHF FINAL4 berth ahead of the daunting trip to Denmark.

"The EHF Champions League is thrilling, fantastic and pure fun. On one hand I'm proud of how my team fought back from a seven-goal deficit but on the other I feel like crying as we could have clinched our FINAL4 berth today.

"We clearly had the better chances in the dying minutes, but we failed in those crucial moments. However, we still have every chance to write handball history,§ he said.

Nadgornaja concurred with her coach. "Right after the match it feels like a point lost. We started very poorly, but then stormed back into the game.

"The little things decided the outcome and we missed those match points in the last few minutes. We will keep our heads high but first of all our fingers crossed that Savehof do us a favour."

Group 2: Larvik (NOR) vs RK Krim Mercator (SLO) 28:22 (14:12)

Any slim hopes of delaying their imminent main round exit that Krim might have nurtured vanished in thin air after a tame defeat at also eliminated Larvik, the result sending EHF Champions League 2012 winners Buducnost Podgorica to the Women's EHF FINAL4 alongside Györ who booked their spot last weekend.

A pedestrian start to the game saw Krim take a 3:1 lead after the opening 11 minutes, but a Larvik’s timeout spurred both teams into action, notably the home side who turned the tide after trailing 11:7 in the closing stages of the first half.

Anja Hammerseng-Edin led the fight back as the Norwegian title holders conjured an impressive 7:1 run to take a two-goal lead into the dressing room at half-time and then kept their feet on the gas pedal after the break.

With veteran goalkeeper Lene Rantala in fine form, Larvik used their speed and quick transition of the ball to conjure a barrage of fast breaks and open shots from either wing, carving out a 21:16 advantage midway through the second half.

Playing for pride in front of their loyal fans who have seen happier moments in the club’s illustrious history, Larvik pressed on relentlessly as the gap soared to 24:17 and they ran out worthy winners on the back of a game-high six goals from Anja Hammerseng-Edin.

TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / Björn Pazen / ts