Four teams through but some favourites struggleArticle
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TALKING POINTS: Struggling powerhouses, do-or-die games and vintage performances have been the highlights of Round 4 of the Women's EHF Champions League Group Matches
»2018-19 Women's News

Four teams through but some favourites struggle

With two rounds of group matches still remaining, four teams have already gained safe passage to the Women’s EHF Champions League Main Round but others who were deemed favourites before the start of the season, are seriously struggling.

Let’s see who is hot and who is not in the Women’s EHF Champions League in out talking points after Round 4.

Four teams have already booked main round spots

After their harder than expected 31:28 win against Thüringer HC on Monday, Györ remain the only team with a 100% winning record in the competition. The Hungarian side is boasting the best attack so far, with 141 goals scored over four games, or an average of 35.25 goals per game.

The defending champions are one of four teams which are already through to the next phase of the competition, with Rostov-Don, Brest Bretagne Handball and RK Krim Mercator completing the picture. Still, those four sides have to pursue the games at full strength, as they will be taking the points won against the other qualified teams into the main round.

A group with everything to play for

With two overwhelming favourites in CSM Bucuresti and FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria due to their roster and experience, few believed that neither of those teams would have failed to gain safe passage to the main round after four matches in Group D. Bietigheim and Kristiansand have held their ground and seriously complicated the group situation, after both beaten CSM this season.

The Norwegian side was close to a draw against FTC three rounds ago, yet an Aniko Kovacsics steal with seconds to spare brought the Hungarian runners-up the vital two points. Everything is to play for in Group D, with CSM in dire straits. The Romanian side could be on the brink of elimination if they lose in Budapest on Sunday, as that would leave them with an all-or-nothing game against Bietigheim in the final round.

CSM’s problematic defence

Which brings us to the next point. A plethora of stars spearheaded another CSM incarnation, after the Romanian side ushered in players like Andrea Lekic, Dragana Cvijic or Jovanka Radicevic this summer. The new Romanian powerhouse, with a strong Balkan flavour, failed to gel after the preseason. After one coaching change, CSM is now second in the group, with only four points, but faces two do-or-die matches against FTC and Bietigheim if they want to progress to the next phase of the competition. Their defence is the third worst in the competition, with 119 goals received in four games, including 31 goals in both home matches so far, against FTC and Vipers Kristiansand.

“It is unacceptable and we really need to get better sooner rather than later. If we receive 31 goals, it is hard to score at least 32. We need to be better in defence,” said CSM left wing and team captain, Iulia Curea.

Vintage outing from Kovacsics

There have only been few better individual performances in the history of the Women’s EHF Champions League than what Aniko Kovacsics did on the court on Sunday, when she scored 15 goals in FTC’s 33:30 win against Bietigheim. The Hungarian playmaker scored five goals from penalties, adding 10 from open play. Kovacsics is the third best scorer in the competition, with 31 goals after four games, but no other player scored at least 15 goals in one game since the Women’s EHF FINAL4 in 2015, when Bella Gulldén needed extra time to reach that milestone in the final against Györ.

Brest is shaping up to be an attacking juggernaut

Defences usher in trophies, yet attacking, creative teams are exciting to watch, and Brest are bringing everything to the table. With the second-best attack - 130 goals scored in four games - and no game with less than 28 goals scored, the French side are definitely shaping up as an attacking juggernaut, a team that is worth having your eye on.

Though currently out with an injury and not playing in the 39:27 win against Sävehof this weekend, Bella Gulldén is definitely back at top form, while Ana Gros confirmed she is one of the most reliable right backs in the competition. Line player Sladana Pop-Lazic is also a player to look for in attack.

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / ew