Five talking points after the first quarter-final legArticle
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NEWS REPORT: Buducnost are reaching top form, Vardar need just a small step and so do Győr, while title holders and FTC go all in for a place in Budapest.

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Five talking points after the first leg of the quarter-finals

After the first legs of the Women’s EHF Champions League quarter-finals it looks increasingly likely that the same teams will line up in the TIPPMIX EHF FINAL4 2017 as last year. Let’s talk about heroines, very tense run-ins and how the best of the elite fought for their places in Budapest.

Never underestimate Buducnost

The Montenegrin giants started the main round with two straight home defeats and the year that was going to be a transitional period started to look unusually grim for Dragan Adzic’s team. The second part of the main round, however, brought important changes and Buducnost soon proved they were very much alive and kicking.

Their win at Vardar and FTC sealed third place in the group and the first leg of their quarter-final showed the improvement Adzic promised was to continue and the Montenegrin powerhouse will duly reach top form by the time the FINAL4 commences.

Poor Larvik, who had only seven players who took shots at the opponent’s goal, was no match for the eager Buducnost side as the home team sent a message to fellow FINAL4 candidates: the notorious Montenegrin defence is back with a vengeance.

Where has Győr’s defence gone?

Ambros Martín, as expected from a Spanish coach, regards defence as the most important aspect of his handball philosophy. This was the case when Györ won back to back titles and has not changed since then.

However, in the wake of Györ’s defeat against FTC in the Hungarian Cup final they suffered yet another defeat with a considerable amount of conceded goals. The 32 goals Metz scored is the most Györ conceded this season, which raises questions about struggles of the traditionally massive defence of the two-time champions.

Györ are still favourites to reach the TIPPMIX EHF FINAL4 as despite the huge efforts of the French outfit the Hungarian powerhouse got away with a one goal defeat but goalkeepers and the defensive wall have to find their game as soon as they can.

Thrilling run-ins

There was not much furore left for the last minutes of Buducnost vs Larvik match but the other three quarter-finals’ run-ins were as tense as these games are supposed to.

Metz claimed victory against Györ in the last second by Ana Gros’s tenth goal while bravely fighting Midtjylland surged back from way behind to give Vardar a scare, yet both Györ and Vardar remain big favourites to reach the FINAL4.

It seems likely that the most important last minutes were played in Bucarest, where Ferencváros were trailing the title holders for most of the game by 2-3 goals thanks to the efforts of the most prolific player of the round, Anikó Kovacsics. CSM’s victory was save when the teams entered the last three minutes but due to some technical errors and fatigue Ferencváros threw their earlier efforts to the wind as the margin grew to five goals.

Goal hunters at double digits

Seven goals were enough for Andrea Penezic to remain on top of the top scorers’ list despite there were no less than five players, who reached double digits. Ana Gros (10) is actually trailing the Croatian genius by a single goal, while Bella Gulldén who scored ten goals against Ferencváros is only five goals behind.

Nora Mørk and Cristina Neagu scored also 10 times against Metz and Larvik respectively but the most prolific player of the round was Anikó Kovacsics of Ferencváros, who scored 11 goals.

Copycating last year?

May we venture a guess? It looks increasingly likely that the participants of the TIPPMIX EHF FINAL4 2017 will be the same as last year. Vardar only have to avoid a home defeat against Midtjylland to seal their spot in Budapest for the fourth consecutive season and Buducnost are ready to do the same. In fact the second leg in Larvik is not much more than a formality.

CSM Bucuresti are in a comfortable position, yet of the quarter-finalists the Romanian outfit has the toughest nut to crack at hand. Five goals represent a considerable margin but Ferencváros, backed by their loyal supporters, will go all in against the title holders.

Metz could also cause an upset but Győr have only lost one point at home in the ongoing season, which means the French team will have to come up with a near-perfect performance to claim a place in the FINAL4.

TEXT: Bence Martha / si