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13.11.2016, 16:42◄ last page     

GROUP B REVIEW: HC Leipzig finally got their first victory in the group matches, yet is was not enough to rise from the bottom of the table; HC Vardar strengthened their top position by beating FTC

Bitter revenge for Leipzig; Vardar unstoppable in Budapest


Four weeks ago in Astrakhan, the Russian champions started their first ever EHF Champions League campaign with a win against HC Leipzig 27:24.

Now the two outsiders of Group B met in Germany, and Leipzig took revenge 30:27. Yet it was the Astrakhan players that were happy after the final whistle – if both teams have an equal number of points after the last group games, as they do now, the Russian champions will qualify to the main round thanks to the away goals rule in head-to-head encounters.

After HC Vardar and FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria had split the points on the opening day of Group B in Skopje, both teams won three matches in a row and secured a spot in the EHF Champions League Main Round.

HC Leipzig earned their 20th win in the continental top flight
• Anne Hubinger scored the most for Leipzig (eight goals) while Karina Sabirova was the top scorer of Astrakhanochka (ten)
• Leipzig will play at home against HC Vardar Skopje in their last group game next week, while Astrakhanochka will face FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria in Russia
• Vardar now top the Group B with eight points, while FTC takes the second place with six (both already through)
• Danick Snelder, Nerea Pena Abaurrea and Marija Jovanovic scored four times each for FTC, while Andrea Lekic was Vardar’s top scorer with seven goals.



HC Leipzig (GER) vs Astrakhanochka (RUS) 30:27 (14:14)

Leipzig had zero points before the game, and they looked to finally break the ice against Astrakhanochka and to catch up with the Russian champions in the table.

Despite the absence of the injured Karolina Kudlacs-Gloc and a few other players, it looked like the mission for Leipzig on home court was quite possible.

Both teams were inconsistent in the first half. Astrakhanochka got off to a better start and led 3:1 after a few minutes.

Yet the host team showed character, seized the initiative and were in 7:4 lead by the 13th minute. But five minutes later, the picture changed as Astrakhanochka were in front again, this time 8:7.

The teams were alternating in lead all the time, and ultimately the draw looked like a fair result at half-time. At 14:14, Leipzig’s coach Norman Rentsch took a time out with 20 seconds remaining in the first half, yet his team did not manage to get in front.

The second half was close as well. Leipzig’s key players Anne Hubinger and Saskia Lang led their teammates by example and helped to create a three-goal lead (21:18), but then Astrakhanochka had a good run, too, and turned the game to 22:21.

In the nervous final minutes, the hosts were dominating, but merely a win was not enough for them. As HC Leipzig had lost by three goals in Russia, now they had to win with a bigger gap.

They were close to it when Nele Reimer made the score 30:26 just half a minute from time. But the Russian side slashed the gap to 30:27, and then Astrakhanochka’s goalkeeper Kira Trusova made a save in the last seconds, and her teammates danced with joy after the final whistle.

FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) vs HC Vardar (MKD) 24:37 (12:21)

An opening draw in Skopje (27:27) four weeks ago was a flattering result for FTC. Yet they understood - and openly said it before the return clash – that at home it will be more difficult to grab points from Vardar.

That was really the case as the visitors put on a very strong performance and earned two valuable points that will be carried over to the Main Round.

The arrival of David Davis as the head coach obviously boosted Vardar’s morale. Under the Spaniard, Vardar emphatically beat Astrakhanochka last week, and now they were unstoppable once again. Their attack seem to fully justify the expectations, having scored 39 goals in the previous game against the Russian side, and 37 goals now.

Vardar missed Anja Althaus, who has problems with her back, but Barbara Lazovic recovered from an eye injury and contributed to the team success.

The first half resembled one-way traffic. Vardar boasted an excellent shot efficiency (95%), and they tore FTC’s defense apart as the Hungarian side looked lost on the court and unable to find an antidote.

Unfortunately, for Budapest fans, Vardar’s advantage grew minute after minute, and the score 21:12 at half-time gave little hope to the host team.

The second half was generally closer, yet Vardar easily went on the win their fourth victory in a row.

Danick Snelder, Nerea Pena Abaurrea and Marija Jovanovic became FTC’s leading scorers with just four goals, while at Vardar, Andrea Lekic was the best with seven goals.

Post-match comments:

David Davis (coach of Vardar): "The key for the win was the defence and the performance of our goalkeepers; we conceded less goals because they saved almost everything, and after the saves we had a lot of fastbreaks. I dont think that their is a real difference between the two teams, FTC are a good team with lot of good players -- today we were just better."

Gabor Elek (coach of FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria): "The better team won today's match, even though the goal difference turned out to be higher than it was supposed to be, considering the skill level of the two teams. I'm disappointed that we couldn't put up a bit bigger resistance."

TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / bc

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