FC Porto hope for maths as they lose in Russia, TATRAN hold strongArticle
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GROUP C REVIEW: Porto suffer a heartbreaking defeat in Russia, while Presov earn their second win, on Vojvodina's court

FC Porto hope for maths as they lose in Russia, TATRAN hold strong

With three and a half minutes to spare, Futebol Clube de Porto were on the brink of their biggest ever performance in the VELUX EHF Champions League, as the Portuguese side was poised to earn a play-off berth for a place in the Last 16.

But a last-minute defeat against Chekhovskie Medvedi turned the hopes into ashes, as Porto are in need of a miracle to achieve their objective. Everything could be decided on Saturday, when Meshkov Brest visit Naturhouse La Rioja, in the top-of-the-table clash.

Following that match, another last-minute victory took place as Vojvodina took TATRAN all the way at home, but the Slovak side managed to come out unscathed, with a 25:24 win.

Chekhovskie Medvedi (RUS) vs Futebol Clube do Porto (POR) 30:29 (16:15)

Five wins in their last six matches would have meant little for Porto, if the Portuguese champions did not win against Chekhovskie Medvedi.

However, travelling 4,500 kilometres to Russia was anything but easy for the guests, who found themselves in turmoil after just five minutes.

The Russian side had already won three of their four matches on their home court, albeit two of them by a one-goal margin. But the ‘Bears’ jumped to a 4:0 lead, after Porto could not find the net in the first seven and a half minutes.

As the Portuguese were trying to wake themselves up, Chekhovskie continued their impressive offensive display, with an 84% shot efficiey that saw them go in 16:15 in front at half-time.

It was not until the 53rd minute that Porto took their first - and only - lead, 27:26, as right wing Antonio Rodrigues Areia was nearly unstoppable, scoring 11 goals in the match.

But his side failed to maintain that rhythm and found themselves immediately on the back foot, which meant it was not the ending that the Portuguese side envisioned.

Trying to emulate their last seconds of the win against TATRAN Presov, when Gilberto Duarte scored the winning goal with three seconds to spare, Porto fell short.

It was the same pattern, with a team timeout taken with 17 seconds left, but the Russian defence was enough to see the Bears prevail, 30:29.

While the Russians earned their third home win after the victories against La Rioja (27:26) and TATRAN Presov (29:28), Porto, with one game left, still hang on to their dream of progressing with Naturhouse La Rioja and HC Meshkov Brest each above them on the same points (12), but with two games left each.

Time for the Portuguese to cross their fingers on one hand and have their calculators ready for the other hand.

Vojvodina (SRB) vs TATRAN Presov (SVK) 24:25 (14:14)

The Slovak side had a chance to avoid last place of the group with at least a nine-goal win on Vojvodina’s home court, but the fact that Presov were looking for just their second win in nine games spoke volumes about the task ahead.

It was no surprise then that Vojvodina took an early lead, 10:6, after only 15 minutes, with right back Milos Orbovic and top scorer Filip Marjanovic in fine form.

There was no sign of worry on the guests’ face, as TATRAN knew that a stout defence could do wonders if needed and an 8:2 run for them over the next 11 minutes saw the Slovak side turn the game on its head, as they spread their offensive responsibility to almost all of the players, with 10 different scorers by half time (14:14).

The speed that was evident in the first half was soon gone in the second half as both defences showed up for business.

Buoyed by their recent eight-goal win in the SEHA League against Meshkov Brest, Presov were more focused, taking a three-goal lead, 20:17, in the 43rd minute.

But the end was dramatic, as Vojvodina tied the score to 24, with three minutes to go. A flurry of turnovers and misses from Orbovic were, however, costly, as Presov ended taking the two points, thanks to a 25:24 win.

13 players scored for the Slovakian side, with Jakub Hrstka the top scorer on seven goals.

Thanks to their 27:19 win in the first match between the sides, the Serbian side are still in fifth place, owning the tiebreaker with Presov, who are on the same amount of points - four.

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / amc