5 things we learned from the main round’s opening matchesArticle
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TALKING POINTS: The second phase of the Women’s EHF Champions League threw off with huge games, some last-minute drama and massive individual mastery. Here are the five things we are still talking about today

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5 things we learned from the main round’s opening matches

Established favourites Györi Audi ETO KC met the surprise package RK Krim Mercator, Balkan giants Buducnost and HC Vardar clashed in Podgorica – and it all happened in the opening days of the Women’s EHF Champions League Main Round.

It was top women’s handball all over Europe, and here are the most important talking points after a thrilling start to the competition in 2017.

Title Holders  grasp last chance

Title holders CSM Bucuresti’s hopes of returning to the Women’s EHF FINAL4 in Budapest were close to getting crushed when two and a half minutes from the final whistle Larvik led by three goals.

Neither the rhythm of the game nor the Romanian outfit’s defensive display promised a great comeback, yet eventually it did materialise.

Bucharest scored three unanswered goals to snatch a point (26:26) which was enough to keep their hopes of qualifing for the knockout stage alive.

On the other hand throwing away such a massive lead in the last seconds could be frustrating for Larvik, but a draw is by no chance a bad result for the Norwegian powerhouse.

Balkan rivalry restored

Buducnost and Vardar just can’t seem to get out of each other’s way.

The two Balkan powerhouses regularly meet at the EHF FINAL4, but this year their main round encounter was no less important.  This time they clashed for the top spot of Group 1.

This is a transition year at Buducnost, but while they can still count on household names such as Katarina Bulatovic and Cristina Neagu, some of the youngsters look promising as well.

However, Vardar are much stronger now. It was actually a great deal from the Montenegrin outfit to make it a tight game.

Andrea Lekic, Andrea Penezic and Alexandra Lacrabere scored 20 of their team’s 31 goals and the fact that Vardar won two consecutive away games against top opponents proves just how strong they are.

Hungary aim to get two teams to Budapest

Even before Györ took on Krim Merkator and gave the Slovenian side a thorough beating (the 17 goal-margin speaks for itself), it was kind of a given assumption that Ambros Martín’s squad of world class talents would make it to the EHF FINAL4 – something that looks even more true now.

By the way, have you checked Anita Görbicz’s magnificent wristshot yet?

But FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria, who were also deemed ready to be called a contender for Budapest, are far less obvious to-be participants.

Yet, Gábor Elek’s team conquered the previously impregnable fortress of Metz, 28:25. The second half display of FTC was something coach Elek had been longing to see: great defence, outstanding goalkeeper performance and moments of individual brilliance.

This country Harald united…

… with his army of heroes. Or as we know it: Norway, home of the best female handball players. Norway are not only the current European and world champions, their players also dominate the top scorer ranking.

Three of the top players are Norwegians. Linn-Kristin Koren Riegelhuth proudly sits up front with a 6,5 goal/match scoring ratio, 52 overall. Larvik can also rely on Amanda Kurtovic (4th, 40 goals) but not on Nora Mörk (40 goals) anymore. Her goals now propel Györ towards the throne.

Karina Sabirova

Astrakhanochka may have suffered yet another devastating defeat, this time at the hands of Thüringer HC, but it is impossible to ignore the magnificent performance of Karina Sabirova.

The 18-year-old left back scored 9 goals against the German team and currently sits second in the top scorer chart with 51 goals, only one behind Riegelhuth-Koren.

Astrakhanochka might need a miracle to proceed to the quarter-finals, but Thüringer HC, who are level with Metz on four points, seem to be ready to fight for their place in the quarter-final.

TEXT: Bence Martha / ts