Vardar break down their Russian opposition; FTC topple LeipzigArticle
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GROUP B REVIEW: Ten goals scored by Andrea Penezic helped HC Vardar to earn a victory over the resistant Astrakhanochka. HC Leipzig fought hard in Dabas but FTC were more powerful and took their second victory in a row

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Vardar break down their Russian opposition; FTC topple Leipzig

HC Vardar earned their second victory in a row, this time beating the Russian champions away in Astrakhan 31:26. The Hungarian runner-up FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria earned their second victory in the group, having beaten HC Leipzig that travelled to Dabas without a number of key injured players.

• HC Vardar now have five points after two games, while Astrakhanochka still have two points
• Karina Sabirova was Astrakhanochka’s top scorer with eight goals; Andrea Penezic found the net ten times for Vardar
• FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria have five points after three games, just like HC Vardar
• HC Leipzig played all their three group games away from home and failed to get any points
• Viktoria Lukacs was FTC’s top scorer with eight goals; Anne Hubinger was Leipzig’s best with five


Astrakhanochka (RUS) vs HC Vardar (MKD) 26:31 (13:14)

Obviously Vardar, being one of the favourites of the whole EHF Champions League, were expected to grab two points in Astrakhan. But the Russian champions proved once again that they can be a hard nut to crack, especially on home court.

It was visible already in the first half.  That being said, the Astrakhan players looked timid at the beginning and scored their first goal only in the 5th minute at 4:0.

Trusova scores again

But that goal broke the ice and boosted the hosts’ morale, and pretty soon they made an impressive comeback from 6:2 to 6:6. Notably one of Astrakhanochka’s goals was spectacularly scored by the goalkeeper Kira Trusova. In fact, she found the net for the second time in competition, the first being in the opening round against HC Leipzig.

Trusova also successfully fulfilled her direct duties and made a number of saves which helped the Russian side to stay in the game. Vardar could no longer build up more than a two-goal advantage before the break. And even if Astrakhanochka were down 13:14 at half-time they went to the dressing room in a happy mood after Liudmila Postnova scored in the last second.

Hosts’ resistance

The second half was tight as well. Midway through it, Vardar lost Barbara Lazovic who hurt her eye and was sidelined for the rest of the game.

The young Astrakhan players showed great desire to win once again. They played an emotional game, shot from every angle, distance and resisted Vardar’s power as long as they could.

Five minutes from time, they slashed the gap to 27:25 which promised a spectacular end of the match. However, in the last minutes Vardar strongly dominated and clinched the victory, their second in the group.

Andrea Penezic was Vardar’s top scorer with ten goals, while Karina Sabirova was the hosts’ leading scorer with eight goals.

Post-match comments

Mikhail Seregin of Astrakhanochka: "Vardar are one of the favorites to win the Champions League. We knew it would be very difficult. The girls worked hard, but we could have prevented a large number of technical mistakes."

Eduard Koksharov of HC Vardar: "Astrakhanochka are a young and promising team, which plays good modern handball. We came with a spirit of combat, we gave it our all, and the game showed that; luck and skill were on our side today."

FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) vs HC Leipzig (GER) 26:22 (12:11)

So far, the schedule has been tough for HC Leipzig as they played all three matches away from home. Moreover, they were able to bring only 11 players to Budapest. Saskia Lang, Franziska Mietzner and Michelle Urbicht are still recovering from injuries, while the Austrian right back Tamara Bösch tore her crucial ligament in the Bundesliga game against Celle and is sidelined until the end of the season.

First half was tight

Probably Leipzig’s problems and the bottom position in the Group B table made the FTC players somewhat complacent. They were not focused enough in the first minutes of the game, and the German side capitalised on that, taking the lead 3:1.

Then the hosts improved and grabbed the initiative, yet in the first half their domination was never too obvious. Leipzig could have taken a draw into half-time but Ewgenija Minevskaja had a penalty shot saved by Blanka Biro in the last seconds, so the score remained 12:11 to FTC.

Szikora’s great saves

Another FTC goalkeeper Melinda Szikora was also good, and her brilliant saves after the break helped the Hungarian team to establish their dominance.

Anne Hubinger, one of the Leipzig’s key players, got a red card for three two-minute suspensions in the middle of the second half, and it obviously reduced the attacking potential of the guests. Their coach Norman Rentsch had a very limited choice of players so fatigue also began to take its toll.

Yet Leipzig should be given a credit for their fighting spirit. They did their best, but a few minutes before time it became clear that FTC would not release the victory from their hands.

Viktoria Lukacs was FTC’s leading scorer with eight goals, and Anne Hubinger, despite her disqualification, remained the best at Leipzig with five goals.

Post-match comments

Norman Rentsch, coach of HC Leipzig: "We had a very young team today because we have a lot of injuries, and today our captain, Karolina Kudlacz, couldn't play. In the last twenty minutes we were very tired, but I am very satisfied with my players. I am satisfied because we have developed step by step, and the results have become better."

Gábor Elek, coach of FTC: "Both teams were missing players. It resulted in a really slow game that was not our style; this is why we could not put on a  real show and show everyone our level."

TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / bc