Poulsen: “We don’t have to fear anyone”Article
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INTERVIEW: The win against Rostov-Don has firmly boosted the self-esteem of Team Esbjerg, and goalkeeper Rikke Poulsen believes her team can go far in the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League
»2019-20 Women's News

Poulsen: “We don’t have to fear anyone”

Rostov-Don might have been missing top star Anna Vyakhireva, but Team Esbjerg’s 31:26 win against the DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL4 finalists from last season was nothing less than impressive.

However, goalkeeper Rikke Poulsen, who contributed with plenty of brilliant saves, was not very surprised by her team’s performance in Saturday’s group B match - especially as Esbjerg came off a convincing 39:24 win at Viborg HK in the domestic league three days earlier.

“After our second half against Viborg I had the feeling that this could be really great, and it was,” Poulsen said. “I think we all played at our best, and when we do that we are hard to beat. Our entire team did a great job. Also, the arena was really behind us like never before. This is the wildest I have ever experienced in (Blue Water) Dokken.”

Poulsen also referred to Esbjerg’s first group match - against CSM Bucuresti. The Danish side came close in the end but lost 24:22.

“I felt that we could have won, if we had only got a better start,” Poulsen said about the CSM game.

Extra motivated against world-class opponents

Like her teammates, Poulsen rose to the occasion against the Russian favourites.

“Like all the other players in our team, I did my bit and I felt things went really well for me,” she said. “I contributed with the necessary saves as that is my job.”

Poulsen admitted she feels extra motivated when facing world-class opponents, like the attacking players of Rostov-Don or CSM Bucuresti.

“It is obvious that the motivation is even higher on such special occasions,” she said. “It has always been the case for me, in the national team as well as in club teams. Big games like finals or Champions League matches are particularly motivating, and I really like playing those matches.”

"Joining Team Esbjerg has just been fantastic"

The 33-year-old shot-stopper joined Team Esbjerg from Danish league rivals Viborg ahead of this season to replace Sandra Toft. The first-choice goalkeeper of the Danish national team moved to Brest Bretagne Handball in the summer of 2019.

“Joining Team Esbjerg has just been fantastic. The people here are very professional, Jesper (Jensen) and Ana (Rastorov) form a great coaching duo, and my teammates are very nice and very dedicated,” said Poulsen, who has played 72 games for Denmark but has not been called up the national team recently.

Poulsen said comparisons with Toft have not been on her mind since joining Esbjerg.

“I know what I stand for, and I have tried a lot with Viborg as well as with the national team, and I do not think much about who was here before,” Poulsen said. “Top teams always have great goalkeepers, and when you join a top team, you will always be succeeding a top keeper, so I really do not think much about that.”

"If we cab minimise our mistakes, we have a good chance"

Saturday’s win against Rostov-Don has increased her optimism in Esbjerg’s chances in the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League.

“I think we can go far, and I also think we can win away against some of the big teams like Rostov-Don and CSM Bucuresti in our own group,” Poulsen said. “Of course, we are aware that playing away in the Champions League is something very different from playing at home. We realise that we will get under heavy pressure on those away grounds, but I am confident that if we can minimise our mistakes, we have a good chance even in such away matches.”

What will be decisive for Esbjerg in those upcoming away games in Rostov (2 November) and Bucharest (10 November)?

“Against those teams it will be crucial to keep them from their fast breaks, which are one of their most dangerous weapons,” the goalkeeper said. “As long as we can play six against six in the defence as well as in the attack, our chances are great, so making use of our opportunities and avoiding technical mistakes will be crucial. If we can go on playing like we have done lately we don’t have to fear anyone.”

Photo Rikke Poulsen: NHC Foto

TEXT: Peter Bruun / ew