Astrakhanochka upset THC, FTC too strong for Metz
Thuringer HC lost 26:24 away in Russia against Astrakhanochka and with it, missed a good opportunity to move level on points with Metz Handball, their main rivals for fourth place in Group 1, after the French side were comfortably beaten 29:23 away in Hungary, against FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria.
FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria yet to drop points in the current competition phase
Astrakhanochka ended their eight-game losing streak and collected their first points in the Women’s EHF Champions League Main Round
FTC won their fifth straight game in the continental top flight and repeated the club record from the 2012/13 season
The tournament’s top scorer Karina Sabirova, netted 13 times for Astrakhanochka – half of the team total
Metz conceded the most goals in one game all season in the competition – 29
Astrakhanochka (RUS) vs Thuringer HC (GER) 26:24 (17:12)
The Russian champions ended their eight-game losing streak and grabbed their first points in the main road, following fellow Germans HC Leipzig who also lost in Russia, in the previous competition phase.
THC exhausted after a long trip
The fifth-placed German side desperately needed points to move up in the table and fight for a quarter-final berth, but given their decent shape in the recent weeks and a 12-goal home win over Astrakhanochka (34:22) in their opening rain Round match, THC were seen as favourites before this match.
Yet their longest trip of the season – a “horror trip” as described by their head coach Herbert Muller – exhausted the visitors who had to travel for a whole day to get to Astrakhan.
From the opening minute, they lacked speed and concentration, losing the ball too often which allowed the young and agile Astrakhanochka players to score from fast-breaks. By the 10th minute, THC had netted just twice (7:2), and only in the last third of the first half did the German team show signs of improvement, reducing the gap from 14:5 to 15:9 and ultimately 17:12 at half-time.
Sabirova the deadly striker
The hosts’ task was not to squander their advantage in the second half – and they managed it despite a hard THC fightback. In the 51st minute they almost drew level (but23:22), yet Astrakhanochka were eager to finally taste a victory.
Women’s EHF Champions League top scorer Karina Sabirova scored 13 goals in the game - her personal record in the competition and Anastasia Riabtseva, who replaced Kira Trusova in goal, played her part in the victory.
With just over two minutes to go, Sabirova scored an important goal, making it 26:23, and the end was in sight as the visitors could only respond with a converted penalty shot in the dying seconds.
Quotes after the match
Mikhail Seregin, Coach, Astrakhanochka: “This victory is very important for us and finally, we believed in ourselves. We have been seriously preparing for this game and tuned only to win. The first half we played well, but in the second half it was difficult as Thüringer played well in defence, caught us on the counter-attack and their goalkeeper played well. However, we held on for the victory and we wish Thüringer luck in the remaining matches and a return to the quarter-finals.”
Herbert Müller, Coach, Thüringer HC: “We congratulate the young, vibrant Astrakhanochka team with a well-deserved victory. The first half, in which we missed from 5 to 14 balls - is just a disaster. We did not seem to be playing handball, but we hoped to turn around the outcome of the game in our favour, but it did not work.”
FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) vs Metz Handball (FRA) 29:23 (15:10)
FTC had already sealed their quarter-final spot prior to the game, yet the Hungarian side were determined to extend their four-game winning run, and they managed to beat Metz for the second time in the current main round.
Lack of early goals
Both teams boasted good defensive capabilities going into the match and this was particularly visible in the opening minutes. Nine minutes into the game, the score was just 2:1 to FTC, and notably the Hungarian side had scored for the first time only in the sixth minute.
Yet gradually the rivals improved their attack, and the game became more spectacular. FTC were down 3:2 and 5:4, but then seized the initiative and came back. A flurry of back court shots by Zita Szucsanszki, Marija Jovanovic and Nerea Pena Abaurrea allowed them to feel comfortable going into the break as they found themselves five goals up (15:10).
FTC in good shape
In the current Women’s EHF Champions League season, Metz had not conceded more than 28 goals in any game. However, FTC soon changed that as they found a way to break down the French side’s solid defence, scoring nearly 30 goals.
The hosts confidently led throughout the second half, and their victory was never really in danger.
The win leave FTC are level on points with the Group 1 leader Vardar, who play against Buducnost tomorrow (Sunday).
Fourth-placed Metz remain two points ahead of THC, and with two matches to go, the French champions are in the driving seat to qualify through.
Quotes after the match
Emmanuel Mayonnade, Coach, Metz Handball: “We are very disappointed, because we wanted to win. The problem was, that our defence was not hard enough and FTC are a very good team. They had a well-deserved win in an amazing atmosphere.”
Grace Zaadi, player, Metz Handball: “I am so sad about of the result, but we must admit, FTC was better today that us. We knew that they are even more stronger in their own hall, so in this way I regret our loss against them when we played in Metz.”
Gábor Elek, Coach, FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria:“In the first 10 minutes our play was slow and we couldn’t attack at our proper level. After that we changed and played faster and our defence became harder. Our goalkeeper made some amazing saves and we held the game in our hands.”
Blanka Bíró, player, FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria: “I am so happy about my performance but the team helped me so much –they defended very well. We are very close to our aim, to reach second place, but we should keep our concentration until the end.”