Five key takeaways after an inspiring EHF European League Women quarter-finals
Two action-packed weekends decided the four teams which clinched the berths for the second edition of the EHF Finals Women. Two Danish sides, a Romanian team and a German outfit secured safe passage to the business end of the EHF European League Women, which will be played on 14 and 15 May.
There were plenty of goals and a big surprise which led to the four teams who will progress to what promised to be a superb weekend of handball, where the winner of the second-tier European competition will be crowned, following in Les Neptunes de Nantes’ footsteps.
But what are the main takeaways after the eight games?
Baia Mare spring huge surprise in the quarter-finals
Form and momentum are one of the key attributes that make or break a campaign in Europe and those were definitely on CS Minaur Baia Mare’s side during their quarter-finals against Sola HK.
The Romanian team became the side with the fewest points in the group phase, five, to clinch an EHF Finals berth, after being in control throughout three of the four halves against Sola HK, a team that went on a six-game winning streak in the group phase.
In fact, Sola failed to qualify for the EHF Finals Women despite losing just one game in the competition this season. But the game could have turned out differently were the Norwegian side better at the start of the second half of the second leg. Baia Mare jumped to a 7:1 run, cancelling a 16:10 lead for Sola, and never looked back, snatching a draw, 29:29, which enabled them to qualify for the business end of the competition for the second season in a row.
Who’s who in the top scorer standings?
Right wing Camilla Herrem had a superb season for Sola HK, but fell short of helping her team progress to the EHF Finals. Herrem scored 61 goals in the eight games she played throughout the season, including 12 goals scored in the quarter-finals against her former team, CS Minaur Baia Mare.
Herrem is only the joint-top scorer of the EHF European League Women this season, as centre back Kristina Jorgensen also had a superb outing in the quarter-finals against Storhamar Handball Elite. The Viborg HK player had 15 goals in those games, helping the Danish side to progress to the EHF Finals.
504 goals were scored by the eight teams involved in the quarter-finals of the competition, an outstanding average of 63 goals per game, lifted by a 72-goal game between CS Minaur Baia Mare and Sola HK and a 75-goal game between Viborg HK and Storhamar Handball Elite during the last two weeks, as the best attacks in the competition duly delivered.
It is a huge uptick from the 465 goals scored in the same phase of the competition last season, or an average of 4.87 goals per game, which underlines once again the free-flowing attacking quality on display. No team has scored more goals than Herning-Ikast Handbold throughout the competition, 265, an average of 33.12 goals per game.
Two teams return to the showpiece
Last season, in Baia Mare, Les Neptunes de Nantes, Herning-Ikast Handbold, CS Minaur Baia Mare and Siofok KC locked horns for the trophy, with the French side coming unscathed after a scintillating display. Two of those teams, Herning-Ikast and CS Minaur Baia Mare, have progressed for the second time to the business end of the competition and have another chance to secure the silverware. Coincidentally, they are the two teams which lost in the semi-finals, as Baia Mare finished third, with a win against the Danish outfit.
Viborg HK are back in the fight for a European trophy, four years removed from reaching the Women’s EHF Cup semi-finals, while SG BBM Bietigheim, one of the two teams boasting an eight-game winning streak coming into the EHF Finals, lost the final of the Women’s EHF Cup in the 2016/17 season.
The four sides await the draw
Bietigheim and Herning-Ikast have been displaying amazing consistency throughout the season, creating the largest-ever winning streaks in the competition, each winning their eight games on their way to the EHF Finals Women. Whether they will be pitted together or not in the semi-final, we will find out only after the draw, due to take place on Thursday, 7 April, at 14:00 CEST in Vienna.
While Bietigheim might bet on their experienced roster and their superb 30-game winning streak in all competitions, Herning-Ikast know what it takes to win the trophy and are the team with the largest number of matches won in the competition, 17.