Metz win big in last MOTW of 2023; Lekic joins 1,000 club
Metz Handball delivered once more against Krim Mercator Ljubljana as the French powerhouse netted 40 times in the last EHF Champions League Women Match of the Week in 2023, with 16 goals from Player of the Match Chloé Valentini, and Kristina Jørgensen combined.
The all-Danish duel between Team Esbjerg and Ikast Handbold brought excitement and strong defences as both sides had more than a successful start to the European season. However, Esbjerg won 37:34 top the group after inflicting Ikast their third defeat in a row.
The positive streak continued for FTC Rail-Cargo Hungaria as they earned a convincing win against MKS Zaglebie Lubin for the second time in a week.
- after five winless rounds, FTC closed 2023 with three straight victories and left Lubin without a point
- Andrea Lekic's fifth goal against Lubin made her the fourth player ever to reach 1,000 goals in the EHF Champions League Women - her all-time tally now stands at 1,002 and she is the current top scorer this season with 51 goals
- Krim appear unable to beat Metz: the last time they beat the French side was in November 2013; the last time Krim conceded 40 goals was against Györi Audi ETO KC in January 2022
- Esbjerg stayed on top of the group ahead of the winter break by winning against Ikast Handbold for the third time in 12 days
- Esbjerg's top scorer Kristine Breistøl had an outstanding day at the office, netting 12 times with six of them scored in the first nine minutes of the second half
- the round’s result means four teams in group B– Vipers Kristiansand, Krim, FTC and CS Rapid Bucuresti – finish 2023 with seven points, ranked fourth to seventh respectively
After a 22:35 defeat last week, Lubin had to accept almost the same result at home. Nevertheless, they pulled one of their best first-half performances of the season. Despite trailing by three at half-time, the Polish side were leading halfway through the first half thanks to Karolina Kochaniak-Sala's goals. However, they did not have enough strength to keep up with FTC after the break, when the Hungarian side started to be unbreakable in defence with a 42 per cent save efficiency by Blanka Böde-Bíró. It took 13 minutes to set a double-digit lead which FTC held until the final buzzer. On top of that, Hungarian fans in the stands were chanting “Andrea Lekic” as the centre back joined the exclusive company of the players who scored 1,000 goals in the competition.
It sounds crazy and unbelievable, but what was most beautiful to feel is that we did it together. This 1,000 goals came with a victory today, so there is no better way to celebrate this. I’m really grateful and thankful to all the coaches and teammates who were alongside me on this very long road in the Champions League.
Krim Mercator are having trouble finding their mojo from the start of the season as they are now on a five-game winless streak. Metz Handball needed only 15 minutes to take a decisive lead of 12:6 and despite all of head coach Dragan Adzic's efforts, Krim could not find a solution in attack. Only Jovanka Radicevic and Tjaša Stanko were able to penetrate Metz's defence and put the ball behind Hatadou Sako's back. With the support of their fans, Metz cruised to another convincing win with 11 out of 13 field players scoring at least once. The amazing batch was led by Kristina Jørgensen and Chloé Valentini (eight goals each) while Barbara Lazovic with five goals joined Radicevic (10) and Stanko (six) in Krim's tough defeat.
I'm very happy to end 2023 with a win, it gives the team comfort and helps us to continue to work together for next year, I'm very proud of my team.
We're going to show next year that we believe in ourselves, that we're stronger than that, we're going to improve and get back to the level we deserve because we're in the Champions League.
Team Esbjerg have found the right recipe for Ikast. In their third encounter in 12 days, nothing changed as Esbjerg took yet another win. After last week's close fight in the Champions League, this time around Esbjerg were even more convincing, especially in the second half. The teams were level in the first 20 minutes but when Amalie Milling came between the posts, Ikast's attack faltered. The 23-year-old goalkeeper had five saves at 72 per cent save efficiency and helped Esbjerg to a four-goal lead at half-time. Kristine Breistøl's unbelievable set of 12 goals helped Esbjerg to a decisive six-goal lead 20 minutes before the final whistle. But Ikast were not letting go. With nine goals by Ingvild Kristiansen Bakkerud and Emma Friis' seven, the visitors managed to narrow the gap in the final minutes to have a better picture ahead of the international break.
It was a close match. We were quite anxious because we were running out of steam and power and we picked up some injuries during the game, so many players had to do a lot more that we anticipated. We are proud of many matches, but this one is a little bit special.
We have shown a lot of good things in the first half of the group stage so far. After the new year we will come back with a lot of that power fight again.
Main photo © Foto Andrus