|21.10.2016, 14:00||◄ last page|
GROUP A PREVIEW: Former WCL winners Buducnost visit the competition’s debutants, Glassverket, while Metz and Thüringer HC clash in a battle of two teams aiming for a top-two finish.
David vs Goliath in Norway, Thüringer HC face tough task in Metz
The second round of the group matches offers a pair of contrasting encounters in Group A, with the competition’s former winners Buducnost travelling to uncharted territory in Norway as odds-on favourites to take two points home with them.
In France, hosts Metz will aim to follow up on their decent performance in last round tight 21:19 defeat at Buducnost, when they take on Thüringer HC who enjoyed an easy home win over Glassverket.
Metz will have taken a lot of positives from their narrow 21:19 defeat at Buducnost in the opening game, having given the more illustrious home side a stern test of their credentials before going down.
The match against THC on home court will be vital for the French team’s ambitions to finish in the section’s top two or even challenge Buducnost for the top spot.
The strong defensive performance in Podgorica suggests Metz are capable of stifling out Thüringer’s potent attack, while a balanced workload at the other end of the court provides for a smooth offence.
Metz had 10 different scorers against Buducnost, led by Laura Flippers, Tamara Horacek and Slovenian Ana Gross, who netted three goals each at one of the most intimidating away courts in Europe.
Metz had a strenuous dress rehearsal for the clash, having eked out a 26:25 win at Besancon to stay top of the French league with a maximum eight points from four games.
Again, Gross was at the heart of the success with seven goals from 14 shots, while goalkeeper Laura Glauser produced 15 saves.
Thüringer will also be buoyed by good attacking cooperation in the comfortable 24:16 home win over Glassverket, with Iveta Luzumova and Crina Pintea netting four goals apiece while three other players added three goals each.
But the match against the competition’s debutants was hardly a barometer of the German team’s potential and they now venture into the unknown, as Thüringer and Metz have never met in European competition before.
Anything other than an emphatic win for Buducnost would be a big surprise, as the Montenegrin giants are one of the favourites to lift their third trophy in Europe’s premier club competition.
However, the laboured win over Metz in the opening round suggests that Buducnost can take nothing for granted this term, even against a team who reached the group matches for the first time ever.
Against the French side, Buducnost relied heavily on Katarina Bulatovic to swing the rollercoaster their way.
The towering right back, who steered the club to both their Champions League titles in 2012 and 2015, netted a game-high 10 goals as Buducnost struggled against a rugged Metz defence.
The rest of the back court had a quiet game and the wingers also found it difficult to operate, as Metz closed their ranks and almost snatched what would have been a deserved point.
Therefore, Buducnost coach Dragan Adzic warned his team against complacency in Drammen, where Glassverket fans will have the privilege of watching their team’s maiden home game in Europe’s top flight.
“The match against Metz showed that our young players have matured to the extent that they will be pillars for club and country in a year’s time,” Adzic told a news conference in Podgorica.
“We didn’t shine but I believe that we will produce an improved performance against Glassverket. On paper, they are weaker than Metz and Thüringer, but we have to show them the utmost respect and not underestimate them for a minute. They play typical Norwegian handball,” he added.
Glassverket put up a brave fight at Thüringer HC, where the Norwegian side’s centre back Emilie Christensen stood out with a game-high eight goals despite her team’s heavy defeat.
The home side will surely produce another trademark spirited display in what is shaping up to be a learning curve at the highest level.
TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / br