New teams, more goals and a new venue for the EHF FINAL4
The past year was truly one to remember in the EHF Champions League Women, as handball emerged from the Covid-19 lockdowns to shine again with packed arenas, fans cheering their favourites on the way to greatness.
In total, there were 135 games played in the European premium competition throughout the year; Vipers Kristiansand retained the title; there were some excellent individual performances, especially from the top names of the competition; and the EHF FINAL4 moved to a new venue.
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Vipers deliver big time in 2022
The 2020/21 season was marred by the Covid-19 pandemic, with Vipers Kristiansand winning the title despite playing only two matches on their home court. In 2021/22, Vipers needed to find a new groove without the MVP of the EHF FINAL4 2021, Henny Reistad, but got rapidly into a rhythm and never looked back.
While they might have found the start difficult, they settled in well and delivered excellent performances, once again going all the way in the EHF Champions League Women. Finishing off with a six-game winning streak, including an outstanding game in the final against Györi ETO Audi KC, the Norwegian powerhouse became only the fourth team to retain the title in the last 22 years.
In the current season, Vipers had a good start, despite losing yet another key player in Nora Mørk. They finished 2022 second in group A, with six wins, a draw and two losses after nine matches in the group phase.
Reistad comes of age in 2022
She might not be playing for Vipers, after her transfer to Team Esbjerg in the summer of 2021, but left back Henny Reistad remains a star. Reistad had a stellar 2022 for her club, ending the year as the player with the largest number of goals scored in the European premium competition across the 12 months. With 127 goals she scored seven more than two other left backs, CSM’s Cristina Neagu and Vipers’ Markéta Jerábková.
The MVP of the EHF EURO 2022, Reistad has been immense for Esbjerg and is now on 354 goals in her career in the EHF Champions League Women, despite being only 23 years old. She is also the sixth all-time goal scorer at the EHF FINAL4, with 48 goals, and will probably move to the top of those standings in a few years. But right now, she is in a league of her own.
A new record goal scorer for the competition
2022 was also the year in which the all-time leading goal scorer of the European premium competition finally changed, with Krim right back Jovanka Radicevic claiming the top position from Anita Görbicz. Radicevic entered the 2022/23 season of the competition, the 19th in her career, with 978 goals. She finally leapfrogged the former Györ centre back on 4 December, in a game against Odense, where she scored four times.
Radicevic was the sixth top scorer in the competition in 2022 with 88 goals, and now stands at an overall tally of 1,025 goals, nine more than Görbicz. Another player, Cristina Neagu, will likely hit the 1,000-goal milestone in the EHF Champions League Women. Neagu made a huge contribution to CSM in 2022 with 120 goals, improving her overall tally to 976. If she keeps the same pace, she will hit 1,000 goals before the group phase ends.
A new arena hosts the EHF FINAL4
A new, state-of-the-art arena, the MVM Dome in Budapest, was the host for the business end of the European top competition in 2022. Inaugurated in January 2022, at the Men’s EHF EURO, the new arena is an upgrade from the previous venue in Hungary’s capital, the László Papp Budapest Sports Arena, where seven editions of the EHF FINAL4 were held.
The MVM Dome can boast a capacity of 20,022 fans and the EHF FINAL4 2022 final set a new crowd attendance record for a women’s club handball game, with 15,400 people turning up to watch Vipers beat Györ 33:31.
New teams, more goals, excellent atmosphere
A total of 21 teams and 434 players played in the European premium competition in 2022, with two sides making their debut in the 2022/23 season, Romanian champions Rapid Bucuresti and Norwegian side Storhamar Handball Elite. Rapid in particular have been exciting to watch, taking six wins, two draws and losing just a single game in the nine matches they featured in. An excellent mix of youth and experience has helped them create good performances, while their raucous fans supported them both in home and away matches.
A total of 7,595 goals were scored in 135 matches, an average of 56.2 goals per game, proving that the handball played in the EHF Champions League Women has been getting faster, more attack-oriented and more and more exciting.