Five talking points after Women’s Champions League Main Round 5Article
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TALKING POINTS: Hungarian teams top the groups, three teams are out, and one quarter-final place remains up for grabs one round before the end of the main round.

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Five talking points after Women’s Champions League Main Round 5

Seven of the eight quarter-final places are taken, one round before the end of the main round action. What’s more is that we even have the quarter-final first pairing: Group B winners Györi Audi ETO KC will take on Metz Handball.

FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria’s unbeaten run was ended- it was the last unbeaten run in the competition. Yet Hungarian teams still rule the Womens’ EHF Champions League: Hungarian teams top both groups. This keeps the possibility of drama between Hungarian teams in the Women’s EHF FINAL4.

One place to fight for

All but one place is confirmed in the quarter-final after Round 9 of the Womens’ EHF Champions League Main Round. The last remaining spot will be decided in the decisive match of the last round between RK Krim Mercator and FC Midtjylland, who lock horns in Slovenia. However, the Danes’ nine-goal victory (28-19) at home put them in a comfortable position. Krim, who started the main round level on points with group leaders Györ, have lost all games so far in this phase of the competition and will have a huge mountain to climb to advance to the quarter-final.

Thüringer HC are out of the competition despite fighting hard  to snatch a point from the already qualified FTC. Similarily, Astrakhanochka and Team Esbjerg  are out too.

It’s not like there will be nothing left to fight for in the last round, though. Group 2 is more or less finished as Györ claimed top spot and Larvik advance as runners-up, while it is very likely that title holders CSM will finish third and Midtjylland fourth. But the last round in Group 1 will bring forward important games as far as rankings are concerned.

Three teams are in the race for the first spot (although Buducnost need a miracle in their match in Budapest to claim it), which is currently occupied by FTC. The only sure thing is that Metz will finish in fourth place. Therefore we already know the pairing of the first quarter-final: the French outfit will take on Group 2 winners Györ.

Now that’s a first!

The last perfect main round run is out the window: Thüringer captalised on FTC’s missed penalties -they converted  just three out of eight penalty shots- and almost handed the Hungarian outfit their first defeat. However,  12 seconds from the final whistle Anikó Kovacsics equalized. Thüringer ended FTC’s five-game winning streak.

HC Vardar suffered their first defeat of the competition last week. This week was even worse for the Macedonian team- they were demolished in Metz. The 42-28 scoreline broke a couple of records- it was most goals scored by Metz, the most goals conceded by Vardar in the competition, and the heaviest defeat the Macedonian team has suffered.

Midtjylland suffered their first home defeat against Larvik, while Buducnost claimed their first home win in the main round against Astrakhanochka.

World class performances

The second half humiliation of Vardar was conducted by Metz’s superstar Ana Gros, who scored 12 goals. She was backed by the amazing performance of Xenia Smits- who scored eight goals. Only Vardar’s left back Andrea Penezic stood in the way of the French tsunami of attacks, but her 10 goals proved to be too little to avoid humiliation.

Bucuresti’s narrow victory over Krim Mercator, which secured the defending champions’ place in the quarter-final, was directed by none other than Isabelle Gulldén (10 goals). Amanda Kurtovic’s seven-goal match in Ikast sent Midtjylland fighting for their place in the quarter-finals in the last round.

Huge saves from Thüringer goalkeeper Dinah Eckerle brought the victory against FTC within reach but the Hungarian team fought back to snatch a point.

Goal machines

Current top scorer Karina Sabirova has only one game left to add to her 77 tally but those coming behind the Russian sensation will engage in a huge battle for the crown. The top scorer list is like an international hall of fame of womens’ handball: Amanda Kurtovic (74), Andrea Penezic (69), Stine Jörgensen (67), Ana Gros (66), Katarina Bulatovic (65)and Isabelle Gulldén (62) are the cream of the crop.

Reigning champion Isabelle Gulldén is the only one in the top ten from last years’ top three scorers as Ekaterina Ilina is out of the competition and Cristina Neagu is only 13th in 2017.

Hungarians on top

One might have expected Györ to win Group 2, but the fact that both main round groups are led by Hungarian teams comes as a surprise. FTC’s flawless run might have ended against Thüringer but Gábor Elek’s team is still unbeaten in the main round and has a chance to keep it that way next weekend in Budapest.

In the last round FTC host Buducnost, who are longing for revenge for the Hungarian outfit’s devastating win in Podgorica. If FTC win, they will clinch first place in the group, while a draw could put Vardar on top- that is if they beat Thüringer at home.

To make it even more complex Buducnost also have a chance to win Group 1- all they need is to defeat FTC by a larger margin than their 25-33 defeat at home and for Vardar to lose against Thüringer. Piece of cake, right?

TEXT: Bence Mártha/kc