Kovacsics lifts FTC past Bietigheim; Vipers shock CSMArticle
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GROUP D REVIEW: A 15-goal outing from Aniko Kovacsics helps FTC earn their third win in a row, while Vipers to take an away victory in Bucuresti’s fortress

Kovacsics lifts FTC past Bietigheim; Vipers shock CSM

FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria earned their third Women’s EHF Champions League 2018/19 win in a row, 33:30, against Bietigheim, after a 7:3 partial to finish off the game – but the biggest news of Group D came later on Sunday evening. Previously winless, Vipers Kristiansand produced the biggest surprise of the season, earning a huge win on CSM Bucuresti’s court in Romania. The Norwegian side led by as many as six goals and were relentless in attack.

The fight for the three places that qualify for the main round from Group D is now wide open. CSM, who are still in second place, will travel to face group leaders FTC in the next round.

• Kovacsics scores 15 goals as FTC defeat Bietigheim. Her best previous performance in the Women’s EHF Champions League was an 11-goal game against CSM Bucuresti last season
• Vipers were winless in away games in the Women’s EHF Champions League prior to Sunday’s victory over Bucuresti
• Jovanka Radicevic and Cristina Neagu score eight times for CSM, while Malin Aune is Vipers’ top scorer, also with eight

FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) vs SG BBM Bietigheim (GER) 33:30 (17:13)

It was a key game for both teams regarding their future in the competition, with a loss hampering the chances of a quarter-final berth. Therefore, there was little room for error for Bietigheim, who had already lost their home game against the Hungarian side.

An early 5:3 lead for the German team shook things up for FTC, who finetuned their attack and started to get back into the game. With a flawless performance from Aniko Kovacsics and Noemi Hafra – who scored 11 goals between them in the first 30 minutes – and a 71% shot efficiency overall, the hosts were firmly in control at the break, 17:13.

With the knowledge of how to handle the Hungarian side based on the first mutual game of the season, Bietigheim made the correct adjustments, helped by a collective effort that saw five players score more than four goals. A 3:0 run that prevented FTC from scoring for five minutes turned the game on its head, and Bietigheim took the lead for the first time in the second half, 27:26, with eight minutes to go.

But the experience and depth were on FTC’s side. A monster game from Kovacsics – her best ever in the Champions League, with 15 goals – helped the Hungarian side to finish the game with a 7:4 partial that earned them their third win in a row.

"I did not count our goals during the game, but I felt the balls were going well. I am really happy because of our victory, but we are not in the final station yet," said Aniko Kovacsics after the match. "I hope that next weekend we can play a good game against CSM. On the other hand, before it, we have a really important match in the Hungarian natonal league, so we are in a hard period of the season."

CSM Bucuresti (ROU) vs Vipers Kristiansand (NOR) 26:31 (11:16)

It was a first half to forget for CSM, as all their woes were on display, both in attack and in defence. A 5:1 run that led the Romanian side to a 5:3 lead after six minutes masked the problems, but after Jelena Grubisic’s saves dried up, Vipers started to run riot.

The usual noisy crowd in Bucharest was left silent by a 5:0 partial from Vipers, which saw the hosts fail to score for over eight minutes and took the Norwegian side’s lead to 11:6.

Neither Neagu nor Lekic produced their most impressive performance, as they did in the first game between the two sides, as both missed penalty shots. Vipers, who were previously winless in away games in the premium competition, earned a commanding 16:11 lead by half-time.

Although surprising, Vipers managed to maintain the same rhythm in the second part, while CSM battled with a lowly 48 per cent shooting efficiency. Though the Romanian side tried to cut the gap, they only managed to reduce it to two goals, as Vipers ran away to an impressive and shocking  win, 31:26.

It was Vipers’ best offensive performance in the history of the Champions League – the Norwegian side scored two goals more than their previous record, 29, against Buducnost last season.

The Norwegian side travel to Bietigheim for a make-or-break clash next week, while CSM will face group leaders FTC.

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / cg