CSM refresh and power past Rostov for bronzeArticle
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3/4 PLACEMENT MATCH REVIEW: CSM Bucharest claim third place in the Women’s EHF Champions League 2017/18 after both teams recover from their semi-final losses to play a high-quality, fast-paced clash.
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CSM refresh and power past Rostov for bronze

It was a completely different CSM Bucuresti side that claimed the bronze medal as they defeated Rostov-Don in the Women’s EHF Champions League 2017/18 play-off for third place on Sunday. The Romanian team took control from the first minute, and never looked back, as they claimed their second consecutive Champions League bronze after defeating Buducnost in the same match one year ago.

CSM left back Cristina Neagu looks set to claim the top scorer award for the season, after adding another two goals to her overall tally, reaching 110 for the season. Her nearest competitor still to play one last match for 2017/18 is HC Vardar’s Andrea Penezic, but as the Croatian back must add 20 goals to draw level with Neagu, it seems the award will be taken by three-time World Handball Player of the Year Neagu for the second time after she shared it with Penezic in 2015 (102 goals).

  • Bucharest left back Cristina Neagu reaches 110 goals for the season, but must wait for the result of the final to secure the award for certain
  • CSM take their third straight Champions League medal after the trophy in 2016 and bronze in 2017
  • Though they finish their season with two losses, Rostov can look back on their most successful year in the Champions League. Their previous best result was the 2015/16 quarter-finals

CSM Bucuresti (ROU) vs Rostov-Don (RUS) 31:30 (19:14)

After finding their powerful attack completely lost against Györi Audi ETO KC in the semi-final on Saturday, CSM refreshed their game and returned faster, more organised and with restored confidence. Starting the match with Neagu and Amanda Kurtovic on court in favour of Gnonsiane Niombla and Line Jörgensen, CSM immediately looked more threatening than Rostov.

"It was a roller coaster for us, but I am happy, that we finished on the top, and end the tournament with a win. Our speed was the key in the game," CSM coach Per Johansson said.

The Russian side had considerable trouble stopping the fast-paced attack against them, and once again relied on goalkeeper Mayssa Pessoa to clean up their defensive errors. Though Pessoa had a strong first half before being replaced by Galina Mekhdieva for the second period, it was Bucharest goalkeeper Jelena Grubisic who won the contest between the posts, saving eight shots in the opening 30 minutes.

CSM capitalised on Grubisic’s work with counter-attack goals as well as fast restarts that Rostov could not stop. After taking her first steps on court in the 12th minute, Neagu scored her opening goal for CSM to take the lead 10:5 at the end of the first quarter. Rostov changed their defence to 5-1, but Bucharest powered to an advantage as decisive as eight goals, 16:8, before the Russian team began to close the gap.

Rostov returned from the break with their own attack working more efficiently. A series of fast-break goals, including a low-angle shot from 2017/18 All-star left wing Siraba Dembele that took them within one at 24:25 in the 47th minute, brought Rostov back into the game.

However, CSM did not allow the Russian team to take the lead. After a level score line of 26:26 in the 49th, Bucharest reclaimed the upper hand to lead 31:28 as the last five minutes began. Only one goal was scored in the next four minutes, by Rostov, but as CSM entered the final 60 seconds with a two-goal lead and possession, it was clear they were on their way to a celebration.

Rostov coach Frederic Bougeant commented: "It was an amazing experience for me. We had too many problems inside the club. We worked very hard to fix the spirit of the team, but I think it was the time to change the way of thinking inside the club. We need to be the best in Russia!”

TEXT: Courtney Gahan / br