|05.11.2016, 21:12||◄ last page|
GROUP D REVIEW: All four teams in the section have four points from as many games, after Larvik edged Team Esbjerg and IK Sävehof beat Krim Mercator to set up a dramatic race for main round berths.
Frantic tussle beckons as Larvik and Sävehof snatch lifeline wins
The battle for the Women’s EHF Champions League Main Round berths in Group D is headed for a fascinating finale, after Larvik completed their double-over Esbjerg in a gripping Scandinavian derby and IK Sävehof came out on top against Krim Mercator.
All four teams are dead-locked on four points with two matches remaining, with Larvik visiting Sävehof in the next round, while Krim are at home to Esbjerg.
Ahead of the game, Krim’s coach, Uros Bregar, predicted that the defence and the goalkeepers for both sides would determine the outcome of the match.
He was correct and at the beginning, his own defence was more successful, but this changed as the match went on.
Krim got the better start, due to a physical and flexible defence in front Misa Marincek, who was playing well in goal.
At the other end of the court, the 19-year-old Bulgarian centre back, Elizabeth Omoregie, was on fire. She scored all first four goals for the visitors’ and six of their seven first goals.
These factors brought Krim ahead 8:5 at the middle of the first half, but a timeout called by Sävehof coach, Henrik Signell, changed things. The home team came back at 8:8 and Sävehof managed to take a one goal lead with them to half-time.
In the second half, the Sävehof defence and goalkeeper, Johanna Bundsen, continued to improve, as their effective counter attacks made the deciding difference.
With 13 minutes left, Louise Sand scored Sävehof’s 1200th Champions League goal, as she made it 20:17.
Sävehof also got four goals up, before a missed penalty shot from Jamina Roberts on the buzzer, which prevented them from overcoming Krim in the standings. The Slovenian time are now one goal ahead the Sävehof in Group D, with both teams owning four points.
Said after the game:
RK Krim Mercator coach Uros Bregar: "Not a very high level of a game from either side with many misstakes, but two very good goalkeepers. This group is very complicated and maybe our penalty save in the last minute can be important, but we don´t know yet. Two games left and the one that really interest me is that when Larvik come here to face Savehof."
Johann Bundsen, a successful goalkeeper with save percentage of more than 50 percent and four goal-winning passes in the second half alone: "I could find Loui Sand with my eyes closed, but I don't think my coach would like that if I tried. I could have saved a little more today, but it was ok."
Having won the reverse fixture in Denmark 31:24 last weekend, Larvik grounded out a precious victory in a trademark Scandinavian battle, which will go down as one of the season’s classics.
As the pulsating contest ebbed and flowed, Gro Hammerseng Edin broke Esbjerg hearts with a final gasping shot, which only just beat the buzzer and visiting goalkeeper, Filippa Idehn, who let the ball slip through her fingers into the back of the net.
The home fans were stunned in the opening 10 minutes, as Esbjerg raced into a 7:3 lead, thanks to superb finishing by their left wing, Maria Mose Vestergaard, who cut through the home team’s defence like a knife.
Larvik, however, showed all their resilience and the makings of former Women’s EHF Champions League winners. Larvik returned the favour to tie the score at 10:10, thanks to Linn Riegelhuth Koren and Marit Malm Frafjord, who pulled the brunt of their team’s weight in attack.
Another Esbjerg surge saw the visitors reclaim a four-goal lead (14:10), as Dutch import, Estavana Polman, showed her scoring prowess, but Larvik managed to slash the deficit by half-time.
As Esbjerg began showing the first signs of fatigue, Larvik seemed to find another gear and nosed ahead 20:19 early in the second half, before several astonishing goals by the towering Kristine Breistol handed the home side a three-goal cushion (25:22).
Unstoppable throughout the contest, Koren continued to inflict damage on the right flank, as she kept finding space in an absorbing match peppered with fast breaks.
Esbjerg refused to roll over after falling behind and forced a dramatic climax, as Polman and Vestergaard, who rediscovered their scoring touch in the closing stages after a quiet second half, hauled the Danish side back on level terms (27:27) in the home straight.
A goal-for-goal tussle ensued, as both teams missed several chances to take the lead, before Hammerseng-Edin forced the final twist with a desperate long-range shot through a forest of hands.
Idehn, who had saved a barrage of tough shots, including three penalties, may feel she should have done better with Hammerseng-Edin’s effort, although her team mates failed to block the shot with time running out.
Koren led all scorers with nine goals from 11 shots, Frafjord added six and Hammerseng-Edin chipped in with five for Larvik. Polman netted seven for Esbjerg and Vestergaard scored six for the Danish outfit, who stayed top of the group on goal difference, despite the derby defeat.
TEXT: Peter Bruun/Zoran Milosavljevic/tm