Emphatic win leads Nantes to first European final
Riding a strong start to the first half, Nantes Atlantique Handball secured their first-ever berth in a final in a European competition after cruising to a 36:34 win against CS Minaur Baia Mare in the opening game of the EHF Finals Women.
Hosts Baia Mare were troubled in both attack and in defence, as they lacked the firepower and focus to challenge the unchained French outfit. The hosts still mounted a serious challenge, cancelling a six-goal deficit in the second half, but collapsed entirely in the dying minutes to hand Nantes the win.
Nantes Atlantique Handball (FRA) vs CS Minaur Baia Mare (ROU) 36:34 (21:15)
- Nantes jumped to an early 7:4 lead, converting all shots on goal, with a four-goal start in the first seven minutes from the team’s top scorer, Brazilian back Bruna De Paula
- with their best outing in a half in this season of the EHF European League, Nantes never relented and boasted a 21:15 lead at the break, as De Paula and right wing Nathalie Hagman combined for 13 goals at that point
- Baia Mare’s top scorer this season, back Jovana Kovacevic, converted only two shots from 10 attempts in the first half in her poorest outing in the EHF European League Women
- a 9:3 run from Baia Mare between the 33rd and the 49th minute turned the game on its head, as Baia Mare tied the game, 27:27, with the French side scoring only six times in the first 20 minutes of the second half
- Nantes put the game to rest with a 4:0 run that followed Baia Mare’s own run. De Paula scored twice in the space of two minutes to inspire the partial that proved the backbone in securing the club’s first-ever European final berth
Hagman shines on the big stage
Coming in hot, with seven wins out of eight games this season, CS Minaur Baia Mare looked like favourites prior to the first game of the inaugural EHF Finals Women.
But the plucky French side secured their historic final participation thanks to a simple recipe: a strong and intelligent defence and superb outings from back Bruna De Paula and right wing Nathalie Hagman.
The 29-year-old Swedish right wing, who was the youngest-ever rookie in the Swedish national team, had only scored 19 goals this season in the EHF European League Women, but has a penchant for big games. She had previously scored 15 goals in one game in the Women’s EHF Cup, in the 2014/15 season, and also had a 17-goal outing for the national team against Russia at the EHF EURO 2018.
This time, Hagman contributed 11 goals to Nantes’ effort and it was exactly the X-factor the French side needed to progress.
It feels really, really good. This is the result from all season — we were fighting a lot in this European cup. We’re very happy but of course we want to win the final tomorrow.