No room for error in Group DArticle
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GROUP D PREVIEW: With one win and two draws in the opening week, this section leaves five teams seeking their first win in Round 2

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No room for error in Group D

There was no shortage of drama in the opening round of VELUX EHF Champions League Group D, with Besiktas being the only side who could boast a win after an intense game against ABC/UMinho.

As Nantes clawed their way back against Motor and Holstebro also snatched a draw against Dinamo in the last 10 seconds, every point looks as valuable as ever.

Dinamo București (ROU) vs Motor Zaporozhye (UKR)
Thursday, 18:00 hrs local time, live on

Just 10 seconds were the difference between a win and a draw for Dinamo București in their first game of the season against TTH Holstebro. The Romanian team was leading 32:31 but the Danish side won a 7-meter throw, which was converted by Jac Karlsson.

However, the Romanian side were happy to take one point and they are still eyeing the play-off for the knockout phase of the competition.

“If we look at the first 59 minutes and 50 seconds we might say we won the game,” Dinamo coach Eliodor Voica said.

“If we analyse the other 10 seconds, the answer changes. We have to be more focused and positive for the next matches.”

The ‘Red Dogs’ will face their first test on Thursday against Motor Zaporozhye, another team that earned one point in their first game with a 26:26 draw against Nantes. The Ukrainian side also travelled to Romania last season, and lost 35:30 to HCM Baia Mare.

Criciotoiu leaves for Bundesliga

It will be Dinamo’s maiden VELUX EHF Champions League game in their new hall, which is set to be filled to the brim with passionate fans.

But the Romanian champions will have to face their Ukrainian counterparts without right back Bogdan Criciotoiu, who scored two goals in the draw against Holstebro.

The 26-year old player had a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave for any Bundesliga team if he received an offer. HC Bergischer was the team calling and Criciotoiu never looked back.

“It was my personal objective to come back in the German championship, but I hope Dinamo will win the Romanian championship and the domestic cup, and proceed to the knockout phase in the VELUX EHF Champions League”, Criciotoiu said before leaving for Germany.

ABC/UMinho (POR) vs TTH Holstebro (DEN)
Saturday, 17:00 hrs local time, live on

“There is a big difference between a point and zero points in such a prestigious competition,” TTH Holstebro coach Patrick Westerholm said after the Danish team got one point from their maiden game in the VELUX EHF Champions League against Dinamo.

Holstebro are looking to bounce back and take the two points in Portugal against ABC, the only side without points in the group after the first round.

The Portuguese champions were close to a surprise in Turkey but Besiktas took control of the game in the second half and won 33:31. It left ABC is still looking for their first win in the European top competition since 2001.

Both teams will have preparation games in the middle of the week with ABC trying to maintain their immaculate record in the Portuguese championship in a derby against Sporting CP, while Holstebro will host Ribe-Esbjerg on Wednesday evening.

Goals from the wing

The Danish side will look again for goals from Kasper Kildelund, their top scorer in the game against Dinamo.

The 22-year old right wing inspired Holstebro against the Romanian side with 9 goals, earning him a place in the VELUX EHF Champions League ‘Best 7’, alongside players of the likes of Uwe Gensheimer and Alex Dujshebaev.

HBC Nantes (FRA) vs Besiktas Mogaz HT (TUR)
Saturday, 18:30 hrs local time, live on

Last season’s EHF Cup Nantes could be considered the favourite for winning the group but life in the European top competition is completely unalike and obviously more difficult.

The French side started with a draw against Motor in their first ever game in the VELUX EHF Champions League. But they continue to eye the first place in the group.

“For our first match ever in the European top competition, we did a very good job,” Nantes coach Thierry Anti said. “It is an amazing performance to start with a draw on Motor’s home court. But it means nothing if we do not manage to double it with a win on home court against Besiktas.”

For their first ever game in the Salle Sportive de la Trocardiere, Nantes will be hoping for a full house, with their passionate fans being one of the main advantages of the team for this season.

“Fatigue is kicking in”

Besiktas are buoyed by their win against ABC/UMinho in the first game and are hoping to emulate that performance in France.

“We are playing a game every three days so the fatigue is kicking in, even at this early stage of the season,” coach Mufit Arin said after Besiktas won 36:30 against Aziziye Belediyesi in the Turkish league.

Besiktas will surely turn again to Tolga Özbahar, who was considered the best line player of Round 1. He scored six goals against ABC and was a linchpin in the Turkish defense that helped the home side win their first match.

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / ew