FEATURE: After their unlucky defeat to Höörs, the Czech side are eager to beat former Champions League winners Larvik on Saturday, but will have to do so without injured Marketa Jerabkova
Banik Most want to kick-start their EHF Cup campaign
DHK Banik Most are no newcomers to European handball. All fans of the Black Angels will remember 12 May 2013 well, when the club celebrated their biggest success so far by winning the Women’s EHF Challenge Cup.
Since then, Most have been participating in the EHF Cup but without major success - until this year.
Strong team with exceptional individuals
Slovakian coach Peter David and his assistant Peter Sabadka have built a strong team with exceptional individuals.
Four players - Petra Ruckova, Dominika Müllnerova, Dominika Zachova and Marketa Jerabkova - were part of the successful Czech Republic team, which reached the quarterfinals of the World Championship 2017 in Germany last month.
Most are leading the Czech-Slovakian top flight, the MOL Liga, and they lifted the Czech cup early in 2018 after beating archrivals Slavia Prague.
Internationally, they breezed into the EHF Cup Group Phase this season after eliminating Dutch team Dalfsen and, sensationally, Russian side Zvezda Zvenigorod, winners of the EHF Champions League in 2008.
Most have been drawn into a group with Scandinavian teams Larvik and Höörs as well as Zalau from Romania.
One player stood above all in Eslöv, where Most played Höörs in the opening round: Marketa Jerabkova.
The 21-year-old centre back has been described by Czech commentators as the new Filip Jícha.
“Of course, it is a big honour to be compared to such a legend, but there was only one Filip. No one will ever achieve what he has done. He was a phenomenon,” Jerabkova says humbly.
Very effective in front of the goal
Most seemed on their way to a perfect start into the group phase as they led Höörs 14:10 at half-time.
“We were very effective in front of the goal, scoring lot of goals. Something we have had problems with in the past,” said Jerabkova, who scored 14 times, more than the rest of her team together.
But the tide turned with four minutes left on the clock. Jerabkova limped off the court after injuring her left knee, and things got from bad to worse for Most.
They not only lost their two-goal lead and the match (28:27), but also their best player.
“I am awaiting further medical tests but I will definitely miss the game against Larvik in the EHF Cup,” Jerabkova says. “It is a pity, but my main priority is to become fit again as soon as possible.”
The absence of Jerabkova is obviously a blow to coach David. The centre back was not only the second best scorer of the Czech national team at the World Championship with 43 goals, but is also the second best scorer of her club.
More responsibility will now rest on the shoulders of Slovakian left back Simona Szarkova, who was the main player during the emphatic 32:22 home win over Zvezda Zvenigorod in Round 3.
Three new signings
The busy schedule won’t be a problem for the Black Angels, says Jerabkova: “We have three new signings, which will help spread the playing time across the team.”
The management of the cub has signed three new players to add to the firepower: Katarina Kostelna and Kristyna Opatova join from Trencin in Slovakia, and former Most player Michaela Janouskova returns to the club from Beyerohder Handball.
The Black Angels play another former Champions League winner, Larvik, on Saturday at 18:00 hrs local time in the Sportovní Hala Baník Most.
The fast-paced Norwegians are favourites according to head coach David, but Most will be supported by a full arena.
“It will be a memorable day for handball in Most and our fans. The arena will be packed, we want to enjoy the game and make the most of it,” Jerabkova says.
Footsteps of older brother Jakub
Her great World Championship and rising form in the European club competition has put her in the spotlight of several big European clubs.
“It is no secret, I would like to go abroad after the end of the season,” says Jerabkova, who would follow the footsteps of older brother Jakub if doing so.
Jakub Jerabek is a professional ice hockey player, currently with NHL club Montreal Canadiens.
“He follows my matches very closely,” Jerabkova says. “Unfortunately, I am usually sleeping when he is playing. Handball and ice hockey are both tough team sports. We do not only look alike, but also character-wise we are very similar.”
TEXT: Tomas Cuncik / ew
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