Györ retain unbeaten status with majestic comeback
Györi Audi ETO KC made it eight wins out of eight games in the EHF Champions League Women 2023/24 group phase with an impressive comeback against SG BBM Bietigheim on Saturday. Their 31:29 victory against the German champions put six points ahead in the group standings, and the Hungarian side is closing in on a quarter-finals berth.
Elsewhere, CSM Bucuresti and Brest Bretagne Handball sealed crucial away wins against DVSC Schaeffler and WHC Buducnost BEMAX. Vipers Kristiansand stopped a four-game winless streak to secure their first win after more than one month, 35:30, against CS Rapid Bucuresti.
- 20-year-old left back Angela Stefania Stoica was CSM’s hero in the absence of Cristina Neagu, Grace Zaadi and Elisabeth Omoregie, delivering her best-ever game in the European premium competition. She scored eight goals, one more than her entire tally from three previous seasons
- IK Sävehof have now tied their largest losing streak in the history of the Champions League, 12 matches in a row, after conceding their eighth loss in as many matches, 22:40 to Odense
- Buducnost conceded their second-largest loss in history on home court in the competition, 21:34 against Brest
- Bietigheim suffered their third loss in a row and their second straight defeat to Györ, after the German side started the season with a five-game winning streak
- Györ's 4:0 run in the middle of the second half ignited an excellent comeback, spurred by 14 goals scored by Bruna de Paula and Viktória Gyori-Lukács
- wings Jana Knedlikova and Sunniva Naes Andersen reigned supreme for Vipers, combining for 13 goals against Rapid. The 35:30 win creates even more drama in a group where four teams could end 2023 with seven points
After the 29:29 draw against DVSC Schaeffler last week, CSM faced a must-win situation to keep dreaming of one of the top two places in the final standings, which yields a quarter-finals berth. However, they were without Cristina Neagu, their top scorer, as well as Grace Zaadi and Elisabeth Omoregie, after their back line suffered blow after blow. However, the Romanian champions provided an excellent match, taking a 30:23 clear win and confirming their away form is better than their home form this season. They end 2023 with a three-game unbeaten streak.
We missed a lot of chances in the beginning so we lost our confidence and we could not get back to the match later. But I would not say I am extremely disappointed, because we lost against a very good team. Of course it could have ended better, but today that was all we had.
It was a very intense game. There were a lot of similar things to last week, and a lot of different ones. I think we found solutions for last week’s problem in defence, and in offence as well. Today my players were calm and disciplined, that’s why we could win.
Odense are one of the in-form teams in the group and strengthened their hand with their sixth win in the last seven matches, 40:22, against Sävehof. After winning by 24 goals against the Swedish side last week, Odense secured their best-ever start in the European premium competition, taking an 18-goal win this time. This was both the third-largest win in history for Odense, as well as the match with the third largest number of goals scored – they set their record last week, in their 44:20 win against the Swedish side.
We played a really good match as we did in Sweden. I have told my girls several times that they have the spirit so we have to keep playing and we know they are a team with a lot of potential and if we stop fighting then they will come back.
It is a really tough game we faced. Before the game we talked about behaviour, and we wanted to fight through the game. I have a different feeling, even though they are punishing us, because we showed the right spirit.
Györ faced their sternest challenge so far this season. With only 20 minutes to go they were down five goals (17:22) at home against SG BBM Bietigheim. It would have been only Györ’s second home loss since 2015 in the European premium competition, but centre back Bruna de Paula delivered her best performance of the season. The Brazilian finished the match with eight goals, to help the Hungarian powerhouse turn the game around. Györ came off a 22:28 loss against rivals FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria on Wednesday in the domestic league, but they sweetened the pot with an excellent comeback against Bietigheim, to preserve their unbeaten status, with eight wins out of eight matches. Bieitigheim have now lost three times in a row after winning the first five games of the season, and finish 2023 third in the group.
Neither the defence, nor the attack which had previously scored the lowest number of goals this season, worked for Buducnost. The point sealed last week after their 20:20 draw against Brest was cancelled by the excellent French side in Montenegro. Goalkeeper Katharina Filter pulled off a masterclass, with 14 saves for an incredible 51.9 per cent save efficiency, helping Brest to their third away win of the season. This was also Buducnost’s second-largest home loss in history, only one goal shy of the 26:40 record set against Mar El Osito L’Eliana over 25 years ago.
From the first minute it was evident that we did not have the attitude and energy we needed. There wasn't even the winning mentality that we showed in the first game in Brest, and that's exactly what this team needs, because this team needs energy and combativeness at the highest possible level in every match.
We showed more discipline than in the first game. We showed good energy and from the first minute we knew what we wanted. I am proud of my team and we are going to the break after winning two important points.
Still without right back Anna Vyakhireva and goalkeeper Katrine Lunde, Vipers Kristiansand stopped a four-game winless streak, their longest since 2018 in the European premium competition, to take a crucial 35:30 win against Rapid Bucuresti. Not only do Vipers now have the advantage in case of a tie in points with the Romanian side, but they also leapfrog Rapid in the standings. Tomás Hlavatý's side will now look to bounce back and challenge for a higher finish, after their season was derailed by injuries and a lack of cohesion following the plethora of changes which took place after their third consecutive title in the EHF Champions League Women.
Having a break is going to be fantastic. We definitely need some rest, and we get the time to practise some things we don’t have time for in the middle of the season. We’re going to use the time well.
Our group is very tight and open, and you can win or lose against anyone. I think everything was really close today, and we’re disappointed by the loss, but we have to keep working. After the break we have a lot of matches still, and our goal is to qualify for the next round. It’s going to be a challenge, but we are ready for it.
Main photo © Aniko Kovacs