5 topics to discuss after start of main roundArticle
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TALKING POINTS: While Györ are enjoying their best ever start in a Women’s EHF Champions League season, CSM’s campaign is gradually derailing
»2018-19 Women's News

5 topics to discuss after start of main round

Györ’s last loss in the Women’s EHF Champions League came in January 2018 against CSM. Since then the Hungarian powerhouse swept everything that came in their way, jumping to a record 15-game winning streak.

But CSM Bucuresti, who were obliterated by the Hungarian side (35:26) when the main round started last weekend, are looking lost. They could be in danger of missing on their objective, a Women’s EHF FINAL4 berth.

On the other hand, young but fiery Buducnost are back on top of the group after stranding in the quarter-final last season, while Brest have a lot of questions to ask themselves if they are to be successful.

CSM, what’s happening?

Branded as a red-hot favourite before the start of the season, CSM Bucuresti have ran into trouble - again. Another change of coach has had little effect. Dragan Djukic has not made the drastic moves necessary to help CSM improve from the first games, when they were coached by Magnus Johansson.

The big question is now if the Romanian powerhouse can make it to their fourth Women’s EHF FINAL4 in Budapest on 11/12 May. Season-ending injuries to Cristina Neagu and Amanda Kurtovic left CSM in dire need of firepower in the back line, while the management could only answer with 24-year-old Romanian left back Claudia Constantinescu.

The 35:26 battering against Györ was the worst ever Champions League defeat for CSM and that could be a peak for things to come if the remaining stars cannot steady the ship.

An unstoppable attack for Györ

Györ look stronger than ever. They are on a seven-game winning streak this season and they have not lost since January 2018, collecting 15 consecutive wins in the process.

In attack, they appear unstoppable, with Stine Oftedal and Nycke Groot connecting perfectly, while new transfer Crina Pintea was flawless against CSM. The Romanian line player made an impressive debut, scoring six times in the last 15 minutes of the first half and ending the game with nine goals.

Györ have scored an astonishing 245 goals in the first seven games of the season, for an average of exactly 35 goals per game. By comparison, the second-best attack is FTC’s, with 209 goals in the same period.

Another FTC player flirts with a record

FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria is never a one-trick pony, but the youth of the team surely means that they have to rely heavily on one of their stalwarts if they are to survive games.

Earlier this season, in the 33:30 win against Bietigheim, playmaker Aniko Kovacsics scored 15 goals, flirting with the all-time record for most goals in a single Champions League match. The best mark remains 17 goals, achieved by Natalia Morskova (Mar Valencia), Anna Kochetova (Dinamo Volgograd) and Grit Jurack (Viborg HK).

However, in the 35:32 win at Thüringer HC on Sunday, it was Nerea Pena’s turn to keep FTC afloat. The Spanish playmaker scored 12 of her 14 goals in the first half, enough for the Hungarian team to climb to fourth place in the group.

Tough times for Brest

Brest Bretagne started the season with huge ambitions, setting a Women’s EHF FINAL4 berth as a target. But four months into the competition, the French side is bottom of Group 1, with only two points, and set in a fiery clash with two Danish sides – Kobenhavn Handball and Odense HC – for fourth place, the last spot that secures a quarter-final berth.

And that fourth spot will likely mean a quarter-final clash against Györ, who look unstoppable now. That’s why Saturday’s 28:24 loss to Odense hurt so much. Losing influential playmaker Isabelle Gulldén to pregnancy surely did not help the French side. Ana Gros, Allison Pineau and Sladjana Pop-Lazic need to step up and help improve the team.

Are Buducnost back in business?

After four consecutive Women’s EHF FINAL4 berths, Buducnost had to sit out last season as new, young players were brought in and a new project was born. Fast-forward to January 2019 and one of the youngest teams still standing in competition, with an average age of 23.1 years, is leading Group 1.

They never won a game by more than four goals, so Dragan Adzic’s approach is the same – a defense-first oriented side, with the focus on backs in attack. The Montenegrin team’s best scorers are still Djurdjina Jaukovic (41 goals) and Milena Raicevic (40 goals).

Buducnost already announced that they signed wings Majda Mehmedovic and Jovanka Radicevic for next season, once again underlining the Montenegrin side’s ambitions.

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / ew