GROUP B REVIEW: A solid performance in the second half helps FTC beat Astrakhanochka in Russia, as both teams prepare for the EHF Champions League Main Round.
Astrakhanochka pleased despite fifth straight loss
Just two points taken from six Group B matches were enough for the Russian champions to go through to the Women’s EHF Champions League Main Round.
Sunday’s 28:33 defeat against FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria was Astrakhanochka’s fifth loss in a row, but it was clear before the game the Russian side were settled in third place.
• FTC finish second in the group and take five points to the main round
• Astrakhanochka are on two points alongside HC Leipzig but stay in third thanks to the away goal rule in head-to-head encounters with the German side
• Astrakhanochka’s Karina Sabirova was the top scorer of the match with 11 goals; Zita Szucsanszki and Nerea Pena tallied seven goals each for FTC
Astrakhanochka (RUS) vs FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) 28:33 (14:14)
After HC Leipzig lost decisively to HC Vardar on Saturday, Astrakhanochka were certain to finish third in the group, while FTC had already secured second place.
Yet the game was important for both sides as they aimed to enter the main round with as many points as possible.
Rising star Sabirova leads with 11 goals
In front of their home crowd, Astrakhanochka were eager to prove that their qualification for the next stage of the Champions League was not just a matter of luck.
The hosts dominated the first half and were 5:2 in the lead in the ninth minute when FTC coach Gabor Elek asked for his first time-out.
"We failed in the beginning of the match, a lot of mistakes, often losing the ball," said Elek after the match, adding that the strong performance of Astrakhanochka goalkeeper Kira Trusova also troubled FTC. "In the second half we came back into the game and brought the match to win."
The visitors were not focused enough and continued to lack efficiency in their attacks as Kira Trusova made saves in Astrakhanochka’s goal, while at the other end 18-year-old talent Karina Sabirova led by example in attack.
18 minutes into the game Sabirova took the score to 11:6, which was the peak difference in favour of Astrakhanochka. The Russian side still led 14:11 a few minutes before half-time, but a number of mistakes allowed the Hungarian side to draw level by the break.
FTC take control
When Nerea Pena put FTC in front early in the second half, it was the first time during the game that the Hungarian side held the advantage.
The visitors improved their game and started to play with more efficiency, and as a result, most of the second half was like a mirror reflection of the first – but this time FTC were in control.
All questions remained open as the margin stood at just one to three goals for the most part, but when the Hungarian side extended their lead to 30:26 four minutes from full-time, the game was decided. FTC easily held on to clinch the victory and take a five-point tally to the main round.
Astrakhanochka will start the next round with zero points, yet for the young Russian champions, who lost around a dozen key players during the summer, reaching the main round is a big achievement in any case.
TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / cg