DAY REVIEW: Handball Club Lada and H 65 Höörs HK came from behind in their opening group games, beating Koebenhavn Handball and DHK Banik Most respectively
Strong comebacks for Höörs and Lada
There was little to choose between the eight teams in action on Saturday’s EHF Cup Group Phase matches, providing four tight and exciting clashes.
Playing at home, Lada and Höörs struggled a lot but ultimately claimed two points, while Kastamonu and Issy earned hard-fought away victories.
· Both Danish teams, Koebenhavn and Viborg, lost their Saturday games
· Banik's Marketa Jerabkova was the best scorer of the day with 14 goals
· Kastamonu became the first Turkish side to play in the group phase
Lada are currently leaders of the Russian league, but in the match against Koebenhavn, they had to do without their head coach Levon Akopyan, who was hospitalised due to an illness.
The Togliatti-based side, who played their first game in 2018, could not find their rhythm and struggled against their Danish rivals, yet ultimately clinched a victory thanks to a strong second-half comeback.
Koebenhavn enjoyed a better start, and led by Mai Kragballe Nielsen and Hanna Blomstrand, opened a 8:4 lead, and although Lada drew level at 12:12, the visitors held the upper hand before the interval as they were up 15:12.
It was not the best game for Lada's captain Daria Dmitrieva who scored just once from five attempts. However, another Russian international Polina Vedekhina did well, finishing the game with seven goals. Midway through the second half, the home team drew level at 22:22 and went on from there to claim two important points.
"We were preparing for a tough game, they are leader's of the Danish championship. However, they did not surprise us.
"The same errors from two or three players in the first half led to easy goals; but in the second half, we stopped giving them space and they began to fail," said Lada coach Alexander Khomutov.
Vipers Kristiansand (NOR) vs Issy Paris Hand (FRA) 22:23 (12:13)
Teams which jump into the EHF Cup following their elimination from the EHF Champions League hope to redeem themselves after a poor autumn performance. However, it can be quite tough - Gdynia and Vipers now know it well as both teams started the group with defeats.
The Norwegian side, in particular, came up short against Issy, who had miraculously qualified for the group phase following a massive second-leg comeback in Qualification Round 3 against Hungary's Erd.
The game in Norway was very tight and both opponents did not show their full power as they lacked efficiency in attack. However, Issy were slightly more clinical, especially Lois Abbingh who finished the game as its top scorer with six goals.
Vipers were down between one and three goals during most of the match and fought until the dying seconds, drawing themselves within a goal at 23:22, yet Issy were fortunate enough to keep their advantage as they celebrated a narrow away win.
Being the first ever women's Turkish club to have reached the group stage of any EHF competition was already an achievement for Kastamonu. Yet they do not want to stop there - and beating Viborg in Denmark is quite a remarkable result for the side coached by Hakan Gunal.
The visitor's captain Serpil Iskenderoglu had been instrumental in taking the team through qualification - in particular, she had scored 16 goals overall in two legs against Vac in Round 3. And now she proved her high quality in the group stage, netting 11 times in Denmark.
The match was tight, but Kastamonu were in lead most of the time. In the middle of the second half Viborg tried to come back and changed the score from 21:17 to 22:22, but that was as good as it got.
The Turkish team had the upper hand in the closing minutes, so their two-goal victory was never in doubt.
"Our advantage was that we are unknown to other teams. We have a lot of video of Viborg and the other teams, so it is easier for us to do our job. We worked hard today and did exactly what we planned to do," explained Kastamonu coach Gunal Hakan.
Now in Group C Kastamonu are level on two points with Byasen, while Viborg and Gdynia both started with defeats.
Höörs played their opening home match in a hall larget than their own, 25 km away in Eslöv, but that did not prevent the Swedish champions from securing the two points in Group D.
The game was quite dramatic as Banik were in lead for most of it, thanks to young left back Marketa Jerabkova, who was the second best scorer of Czech Republic in the recent World Championship and maintained her prolific scoring with 14 in this encounter - more than a half of her team's goals.
Thanks to Jerabkova's impact, Banik felt confident in the first half as they led 9:5, 12:7 and cruised to a 14:10 half-time advantage.
Höör did not have such a dominant scorer, yet fortune smiled on them in the closing stages of the game. Four minutes from the end, Jerabkova left the court injured and the Swedish side turned a two-goal deficit into a 28:27 victory.
Höör captain Sofia Hvenfelt knew her team was capable of getting through the test: "I'm proud to be the captain of a team where everybode fights to the last second in every game. After all, this is not the first tight game we won in the EHF Cup, it was the same in the thrid round against Metzingen."
TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / cor
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