A perfect farewell for Martin: Györ become first to defend FINAL4 title
It was a thrilling farewell for Ambros Martin and a perfect birthday present for Anita Görbicz: Györi Audi ETO KC became the Women’s EHF Champions League 2017/18 winners after a tense 70-minute battle versus HC Vardar, taking a 27:26 victory thanks to a fast-break save from Eva Kiss in the dying seconds of extra time.
"I want to talk about what I feel about my team but I can not describe my feelings today. Not just because what happened today, ever day is amazing in Győr. Congratulations to Vardar as well, none of the teams deserved to lose today. We are very satisfied with the result,” commented Martin after the final, which saw him steer Györ to a fourth title in six years.
- Györ win their fourth EHF Champions League trophy and become the first side to defend a FINAL4 title
- Ambros Martin says goodbye to Györ after winning four Champions League trophies in six years with the club
- Vardar leave the EHF FINAL4 empty handed after five participations, and two consecutive finals
- The individual scoring results of the final mean CSM left back Cristina Neagu is confirmed as the top scorer of the 2017/18 season with 109 goals, while Amandine Leynaud claimed the MVP trophy
Györi Audi ETO KC (HUN) vs HC Vardar (MKD) 27:26 after extra time (20:20, 9:9)
The packed Papp Laszlo Budapest Sportarena was treated to another spectacular Women’s EHF Champions League trophy match, as Györ and Vardar needed extra time to find a winner of the 2017/18 season.
Györ began the trophy match just as they did the semi-final, with their strong defence making it difficult for their opponents to find their rhythm, and even the same opening goal – a ground shot from left back Eduarda Amorim.
The Macedonian team’s first goal came from Alexandra Lacrabere on a penalty in the fifth (2:1), but Vardar trailed their opponents by a steady one to two goals through the opening 25 minutes as they had trouble beating Györ goalkeeper Kari Aalvik Grimsbø. Vardar keeper Amandine Leynaud did not open the match as well as Grimsbø, but once she began to make saves, she became the Hungarian team’s nightmare, finishing the match with a rate of 41 per cent.
Leynaud saves pave the way for Vardar to equalise
Györ created their highest lead at three goals after a fast break from Nycke Groot (7:4) in the 17th minute, before Vardar capitalised on three consecutive saves from Leynaud to close the gap. In the 25th, it was right wing Sara Ristovska who levelled the game at 7:7 after eight scoreless minutes for Györ, and it remained equal as the whistle for the break sounded five minutes later.
Leynaud became an increasing problem for Györ in the second half, saving 11 shots at 55 per cent by the 35th minute. After a second two-minute suspension for Amorim, Györ coach Martin opted for a back-court combination of Stine Oftedal, Groot and Anne Mette Hansen. This proved a wise decision, as Hansen was instrumental in drawing penalties and scoring goals that levelled the game once more, at 13:13 in the 44th.
"It was the toughest game I’ve ever experienced. I am proud of my team. We played with heart. It is over for now, but I am glad that I was part of this team,” Leynaud said after the game.
70 minutes to decide the trophy
From that point neither team could create a decisive edge. After a thrilling last quarter, the match was sent into extra time as the score stood level when the 60-minute buzzer sounded – just as it did one year ago when Györ took their third title.
Györ scored the first goal in extra time, and though Vardar always levelled, the Hungarian side ended the first five-minute period with a 24:23 lead. After coming in for penalties throughout the match, Eva Kiss replaced Grimsbø for the second five minutes.
With two goals in a row, from Groot and Bernadett Bodi, Györ pulled ahead 26:23 – but Vardar answered, with Lekic taking the Macedonian team within one at 26:27. In a nail-biting last minute, Györ lost the ball on their final attack. Lekic ran down the court on a fast-break combination with Andrea Canadija – who took the last shot, only to have it saved by Kiss.