Summary: Bietigheim end perfect season with maiden title
SG BBM Bietigheim became the new champions of the EHF European League Women after a dominant showing in the final against Viborg HK. Earlier on the second and final day at the Energi Viborg EHF Finals, Herning-Ikast took third as they beat CS Minaur Baia Mare.
On semi-finals day, Bietigheim booked the first final ticket with a nail-biting last-second win versus Herning-Ikast, before Viborg powered through their semi-final against CS Minaur to take the second place in the trophy match.
- final sees Bietigheim win first international title with powerful victory versus Viborg, 31:20
- Herning-Ikast beat CS Minaur 29:28 in 3/4 placement match after penalty shootout
- in the semi-finals, Bietigheim defeat Herning-Ikast 34:33 in thriller; Viborg HK take clearer victory over CS Minaur
- Bietigheim back Xenia Smits named MVP of the Energi Viborg EHF Finals; Viborg back Kristina Jörgensen finishes as 2021/22 top scorer with 72 goals
- Courtney Gahan reporting all weekend, with the help of some pre- and in-match thoughts from journalist Adrian Costeiu. Energi Viborg EHF Finals photos by Axel Heimken/kolektiff
That's a wrap on our live blog — and that's a wrap on the EHF European League Women 2021/22! An exciting season come to an end with new champions, SG BBM Bietigheim, for whom it was an historic and memorable result.
It is bittersweet to farewell the season, but luckily there are still three more big weekends to come as the European cup competitions for 2021/22 conclude — the final weekend of the EHF European League Men as well as the two EHF FINAL4 events, in Budapest (women) and Cologne (men). So be sure to keep visiting eurohandball.com to keep up with all the excitement to come.
As for the EHF European League Women, we can't wait for next season!
We are coming to the end of our coverage of the Energi Viborg EHF Finals, and below we bring you our last article of the weekend — a feature on MVP Xenia Smits.
“Was it really me? I did not expect to secure the MVP award, because we played so good as a team. I really could not have done it without my teammates,” the 28-year-old left back told eurohandball.com.
Read the full feature below!
That moment they worked all season for — receiving the trophy! A very special moment for Bietigheim.
While Kristina Jörgensen sealed the top scorer crown with 72 goals overall, Bietigheim back Xenia Smits was named MVP of the Energy Viborg EHF Finals. The German back played at 110 per cent every minute she was on court, contributing in both attack and defence.
We have a feature with Jörgensen and Smits coming your way soon — stay tuned!
Bietigheim's fans have been nothing short of superb support over the weekend, bringing the noise with their drums and chants from the first warm-up right through the the end of the trophy celebration — not to mention travelling to Viborg!
An epic final win means a well-deserved celebration! Here's how the minutes after the final whistle went down in Vibocold Arena.
Below, recap on how the final of the EHF European League Women 2021/22 unfolded, with Bietigheim taking a decisive win to cap a perfect season, with our match review.
We are very disappointed right now, but we are still a young team, with players that will grow and learn from this experience. We stood no chance — Bietigheim were awesome. In a few days, I want to look back and smile about this season.
It was a hard job, but I am very happy and I am so proud of the girls. They did well; stayed focused throughout the game. We played with a lot of heart, a lot of speed and we found good solutions in attack. It was a perfect day for us.
19:28 RESULT | VIBORG VS BIETIGHEIM 20:31
An historic first title, a completely dominant performance in the final and a second trophy of the two decided in Bietigheim's schedule so far this season — what a win for the German team! The result was all but determined long before the buzzer, but Bietigheim pushed through to the end and every single player had their time on court. An extremely impressive showing from our new title holders!
10 minutes to go. 10-goal lead for Bietigheim.
Melinda Szikora continues to be hugely impressive in Bietigheim's goal, with 10 saves now at 41 per cent.
Unless there is a catastrophic drop in form and a huge comeback from Viborg — although the German team are still going full throttle and fighting hard for every chance — Bietigheim will celebrate an historic trophy at the final buzzer. Together with the German league title, that would make two out of three for the club in 2021/22 — and the German Cup still awaits.
Bietigheim have never won both the German league and Cup in the same season. Their season is already looking to be historic, and they may have the chance to make it even more so.
Below, check out one of Szikora's earlier saves.
Five minutes into the second half, Bietigheim have only increased their lead as they look completely dominant. The score now stands at 23:11 for the German team, who entered this match on a 49-game winning streak across all competitions and appear on the cusp of their 50th.
As there has only been one single final match in the history of the women's second-tier European cup competition (the EHF Cup was always played in two legs for the trophy match), it is not a long record, but unless Viborg pull the game back within their grasp Bietigheim seem on track for the biggest final win so far in the EHF European League. Last season, Nantes defeated Siófok 36:31.
It is very difficult to identify individual standouts for Bietigheim, as the load has been well-shared across the back court and with wings Trine Ostergaard and Veronika Mala. Backs Xenia Smits, Kelly Dulfer, Julia Maidhof and Karolina Kudlacz-Gloc have all had their time on court, led by expert guidance from centre back Inger Smits. Rounding it off are great performances from line players Danick Snelder and Luisa Schulze.
With Bietigheim already confirmed as the German league champions, they are set to join the EHF Champions League Women next season, and we can all look very much forward to seeing them in action in that top-flight competition.
18:39 HALF-TIME THOUGHTS | BY ADRIAN COSTEIU
Time for some extra match analysis from journalist Adrian Costeiu. Here are his thoughts on the final at the half-time break.
If the hosts have something to lament, it should definitely be that wretched run between the 12th and 18th minutes, where they failed to score a goal. A sturdy Bietigheim defence rendered Viborg’s attack pretty much toothless over that period, enabling the German side to build a 6:0 unanswered run that blew the game open.
The game started perfectly for Viborg, with goalkeeper Anna Kristensen saving the first three shots, as Bietigheim needed four minutes to score their first goal. However, it quickly went downhill for the Danish side, who searched to unlock the opposing defence but could only do it in short bursts.
Boasting a 17:10 lead at the break, this is Bietigheim’s game to lose. Bear in mind, yesterday they had a seven-goal lead against Herning-Ikast Handbold with 15 minutes to go and needed a last-gasp goal from back Karolina Kudlacz-Gloc to make it to the final. Did they learn something from that game? Or can Viborg emulate Herning’s comeback? This is handball, so nothing is decided yet.
18:37 HALF-TIME | VIBORG VS BIETIGHEIM 10:17
Bietigheim take a very confident seven-goal advantage into the break in the final of the EHF European League Women 2021/22. The German side are looking superb while Viborg seem to have little answer for the strong defence they are facing. Can Viborg turn this around or will we see a commanding first international title win for Bietigheim?
Ahead of this weekend, only one player had the chance to return to the EHF European League Women final after playing it last season — and she did it: Melinda Szikora. The Bietigheim goalkeeper is having a top game, with five saves at 42 per cent as the clock hits 22 minutes and the German team lead 12:7.
Bietigheim are looking very strong indeed, and Szikora's saves have been critical as they keep Viborg's attacking and shooting efficiency far lower than their own. In 2020/21, Szikora was defeated in the final as part of the Siófok side. Right now, it looks very promising that it will be a very different story in 2021/22.
First timeout of the match called by Viborg coach Jakob Vestergaard, as Bietigheim open the first gap of more than one goal courtesy of a perfect lob from left wing Veronika Mala. The score stands at 7:5 in the 14th minute.
So far the goals have been spread throughout both teams, with only the competition's top scorer Kristina Jörgensen and Julia Maidhof netting two. After Jelena Lavko netted seven in the 3/4 placement match, taking her season tally to 59, Jörgensen is confirmed as the top scorer of 2021/22. With her two goals so far, she sits on 69, where she has surpassed Helene Fauske's 61 from last season.
Eight minutes played in the final and it's a low-scoring affair so far, with Viborg just in front at 3:2.
Remember it's not only the trophy on the line in today's matches, but medals. Enjoy a sneak peak of what will the players will be taking home from the Energi Viborg EHF Finals below!
Starting whistle on the final match of the season! Who will take the EHF European League Women 2021/22 title?
According to our poll, Bietigheim are your clear favourites for the win. Let's find out if you're correct!
What excitement in the 3/4 placement match! What we still have plenty more to come, with the title now to be decided. In 15 minutes, Viborg HK and Bietigheim throw off.
How exactly did the dramatic 3/4 placement match unfold? Recap how Herning-Ikast took the last place on the podium in our match review below!
We played two games against two Danish teams in two days and I think we did very good. No matter about the results, I am proud about how we fought, what we did on the court and the way we played. This is an amazing group. We gave each other the strength we need and we are truly happy for our last weeks together. We win and lose as a team.
I am glad. It was a tough match. We created a lot of chances, but they [his players] had issues in scoring against a great, great goalkeeper in Amra Pandžic. This is why the game was so balanced.
Here we have the decisive moments in the 3/4 placement match: the penalty shootout!
17:12 RESULT | CS MINAUR VS HERNING-IKAST 28:29
What an ending to a great match! Herning-Ikast celebrate as Line Hougaard nets the final shot to secure the victory, and with that, third place.
CS Minaur can only be pleased with their effort, after such a strong challenge and coming so close to their second consecutive third-place finish in the competition.
CS Minaur's Amra Pandžic comes so close to a save, but the ball bounces over the line, before Herning-Ikast's Jessica Ryde makes the first save of the shootout. Will that be the deciding action?
Two shots so far and none saved in the penalty shootout, so we still have an equal score, at 26:26. Three shots each to go!
17:03 END REGULAR TIME | CS MINAUR VS HERNING-IKAST 24:24
The 3/4 placement match will go to a penalty shootout! Jelena Lavko equalised for CS Minaur with two seconds on the clock in a dramatic ending, seeing a level score of 24:24 at the end of regular time.
Two minutes to go and another massive wing save from Amra Pandžic that keeps the score at 23:22 for Herning-Ikast. There is no player of the match award, but if there were, the Slovenian keeper would be the obvious choice for it in this clash.
Can Baia Mare level the game again and take the lead? Will Herning-Ikast hold on? Or will we see a penalty shootout to decide the winners?
Herning-Ikast have switched to seven-against-six and replaced Jessica Ryde with Sabine Englert in goal. With four minutes on the clock, the score is still level, 22:22, as Englert makes an important save and opens the door for the Danish side to take what could be a very critical edge late in the game.
Below, enjoy a top goal from Alexandra Severin — and we can see now that CS Minaur had every reason to believe in a comeback!
Jelena Lavko nets her fourth of the match to bring us into the last 10 minutes of the game with an equal score, 21:21, before her teammate Amra Pandžic delivers two superb saves against wide-angle wing shots.
The score is level but the feeling is that Baia Mare are finding more power here in the late stages, and Pandžic's saves are surely doing a huge job in giving her team more confidence.
As we approach the last quarter of the 3/4 placement match, we really have a game on our hands. While Herning-Ikast are fighting to keep the advantage, CS Minaur are chasing hard and have been rewarded more than once with a level score. The Romanian side are really threatening to close the gap constantly, and now sit just one behind at 19:20.
All around the teams are delivering a great show, but the goalkeepers may be stealing it — Amra Pandžic has made some huge saves and sits on a rate of 43 per cent, while Jessica Ryde is on 39 per cent.
What a rally! First a top save from Jessica Ryde for Herning-Ikast, then an answer from Amra Pandžic at the other end of the court.
The match has resumed with CS Minaur the first to score, making it a one-goal game at 13:14 in the 33rd. In case the score stands level at the end of regular playing time, the decision will go down to a penalty shootout.
16:10 HALF-TIME THOUGHTS | BY ADRIAN COSTEIU
Here we have journalist Adrian Costeiu's thoughts on the 3/4 placement match so far:
We promised you a game with a high energy level and this one thoroughly delivered, at least in the first half. We had it all — superb fast breaks converted by pacy wings, great interceptions, some amazing goals and also lead changes.
Baia Mare started quite well — after yesterday’s game against Viborg when they went down 2:9 after 11 minutes — with an ultra-aggressive attacking stance. What coach Raul Fotonea did was substitute the goalkeeper at the start of each attacking action, turning the game into a seven-on-six affair, which worked wonders.
But after a 4:1 start, Herning-Ikast woke up and constantly frustrated the Romanian team in attack. As goalkeeper Jessica Ryde started to get into her groove, Baia Mare missed chance after chance. Right now, at the break, Herning-Ikast lead by two, but do they have something still in the tank after yesterday’s tough match against Bietigheim, lost by one in the final second? 30 minutes to find out. And, by the way, this would be Herning-Ikast’s first win in the EHF Finals in four matches.
16:05 HALF-TIME | CS MINAUR VS HERNING-IKAST 12:14
Herning-Ikast looked to be taking control but CS Minaur show their fighting spirit and again pull the game back within reach, going to the break just two points behind their rivals, at 12:14.
Herning-Ikast goalkeeper Jessica Ryde was quite the star of the first half on the individual level, finishing with 10 saves at 45 per cent.
Coming up to the 20th minute, Herning-Ikast have pulled ahead to a narrow but promising advantage, at 11:8.
Leading the way for the side, alongside a great start right off the mark from Ingvild Bakkerud (four goals now) have been wing Emma Friis, who also counts four goals in her tally, and a standout game from Jessica Ryde in goal. Ryde has made six saves at a huge 43 per cent.
Below, see two great steals from Baia Mare's Asuka Fujita, including one she converted into a goal herself.
Just past the 10-minute mark, we have a very tight game in the 3/4 placement match, with Herning-Ikast just in front at 6:5.
Starting whistle in Viborg! The second-to-last match of the EHF European League Women 2021/22 season is now underway, with third place to go to the winner. Will it be Herning-Ikast or CS Minaur?
My personal favourite photo from yesterday's semi-finals — a great shot of CS Minaur's Yaroslava Burlachenko!
Herning-Ikast coach Kasper Christensen said that he believed Viborg were the firm favourites against CS Minaur Baia Mare ahead of yesterday's second semi-final, and CS Minaur back Cristina Laslo was not too pleased to hear his assessment. The Romanian back found that her team put up a strong challenge for Viborg and remembers all too well that it was her side that came out on top against Herning-Ikast one year ago in the 3/4 placement match.
"We have heard what they said about us — that we did not stand a chance against Viborg. We proved them wrong. We will meet them now," said Laslo. "They should be prepared, because we were better than them last year."
The stage is sure set for a fiery match to get us started on this final day of the European League season!
We have a first glimpse of the EHF European League Women 2021/22 trophy. Here is what Viborg and SG BBM Bietigheim are fighting for today.
Herning-Ikast and CS Minaur have arrived at Vibocold Arena for the 3/4 placement match! Take a look at some photos of their arrival below.
Although CS Minaur took the win in the 3/4 placement match last season, Herning-Ikast have the edge on the historic head-to-head results against the Romanian side, having won twice in their three mutual clashes.
We are just over 90 minutes away from throw-off in the opening game of the day!
13:03 PRE-GAME THOUGHTS | BY ADRIAN COSTEIU
Last season, Baia Mare secured third place in the final season ranking with a 33:31 victory over Herning-Ikast at the first edition of the EHF Finals Women. Today, the two sides meet again to determine third place in 2021/22.
Journalist Adrian Costeiu shares his pre-game thoughts on the placement match:
Playing one game against a Danish team is a difficult proposition for many teams. Playing twice in two days against two of the best sides in Denmark? That is a whole different story and CS Minaur Baia Mare will really have their work cut in the 3/4 placement match today against Herning-Ikast Handbold. The Romanian side showed grit and team spirit yesterday, when they turned a 2:9 deficit into a one-goal game, 16:17, in the second half against Viborg HK. Their lack of experience and depth was, however, on display, as Viborg pulled away in the final minutes to take a 28:24 win and qualify for the final.
However, Herning-Ikast Handbold are a totally different team than Viborg, when talking about the matchups Baia Mare will face. After the 34:33 win against the Danish side, Bietigheim coach Markus Gaugisch compared the match to a game of chess, where one must think before every move made by Herning-Ikast — a team with a scintillating attack that can constantly shapeshift on both sides of the court.
Take, for example, their very efficient seven-on-six attacks deployed by coach Kasper Christensen. Few teams try that in European games and it has worked a treat for Herning-Ikast this season. Moreover, if a player does well for the opponent, then Christensen will pull no punches and immediately change to an aggressive 5-1 defence to take that player out of the game.
While Baia Mare won against Herning-Ikast last season in exactly the same circumstances, the Danish side must be favoured once again here, especially due to their amazing attack. But bear in mind that Baia Mare can also thrive in a high-octane game — after all, they won the first leg of the quarter-final against Sola HK, 40:32. The conclusion? Expect a game with plenty of goals and a lot of fun.
Some more fun with the #TimeOutChallenge! Julia Maidhof spoke to us yesterday after Bietigheim's semi-final win. Get to know the German side's right back a little better below.
Top scorer watch: Viborg HK back Kristina Jörgensen is all but confirmed as top scorer (we can never say for sure until the final whistle!) with 67 goals since the start of the group phase, after adding six to her season tally in yesterday's semi-final. Her nearest rival still in the competition is CS Minaur's Jelena Lavko, with 53.
Last season's top scorer was Norwegian back Helene Fauske, so it looks like Scandinavian backs are setting quite the tradition in the EHF European League Women.
What history there is at Viborg HK — a club with a very strong tradition in European cup competitions. Check out their trophy cabinet below, which they hope to add to today.
Alongside their three EHF Champions League trophies, Viborg won the second-tier European competition under its former name — the EHF Cup — three times. That makes Viborg the most decorated side in the history of the competition. In addition, Danish clubs have won the trophy the most times — a total of nine.
While Viborg hope to add to their list of titles, Bietigheim are searching for their first international trophy. The club played one final before, in 2017, losing the ultimate match in the EHF Cup to Rostov-Don. Should Bietigheim take the trophy, they will be the second German team ever to do so after Leipzig exactly 30 years ago.
We started the weekend with four teams still in the race for the title and now just two remain. Who do you think will celebrate at the end of the day? Have your say in our poll below!
Two unbeaten teams, the chance for a first title for Bietigheim or a return to the top of the podium after a long wait for Viborg, and a rematch of last season's 3/4 placement game — read up on everything you need to know about the upcoming matches in our preview below.
They have a very strong team. They play very well. They are a good team that can also feature in the Champions League. As a former German national coach, I know plenty of their players. We have been practising a lot. Hopefully we will do a great match tomorrow.
Sunday 15 May
Good morning and welcome back to our live blog coverage of the Energi Viborg EHF Finals — where it is finals day!
We get started with the 3/4 placement match between Herning-Ikast and CS Minaur Baia Mare at 15:30 CEST, followed by the trophy game between Viborg and Bietigheim at 18:00 CEST.
Saturday 14 May
That brings us to the end of a big day at the Energi Viborg EHF Finals — and a big day of live blog coverage.
Join us tomorrow for the final day of the EHF European League Women season! Here is the schedule for finals day:
- 3/4 placement match: CS Minaur Baia Mare vs Herning-Ikast 15:30 CEST
- Final: Viborg HK vs SG BBM Bietigheim 18:00 CEST
What a day of semi-finals at the Energi Viborg EHF Finals! Below, read our recaps on both matches as Bietigheim and Viborg became the last teams standing in the race for the 2021/22 European League trophy.
We started the game very bad. After 10 to 12 minutes we fixed the issues in the defence and we made the game much harder for them. After the break, the difference between us and Viborg was only one goal, but another series of mistakes cost us. My players did everything to win. They missed a few passes, a few shots, and this cost us the win.
It was a great experience. They never gave up. We had to work for this win and it is an amazing feeling to be in the final.
19:32 RESULT | VIBORG HK VS CS MINAUR 28:24
Viborg do not falter and join Bietigheim in the final of the EHF European League Women 2021/22 with a clear win. CS Minaur fought to the end but the Danish side were the stronger team and give the home fans a reason to celebrate as they book their first appearance in a European cup final since the 2013/14 season.
We enter the final 10 minutes with Viborg still nursing a promising lead, at 25:20 — is the outcome decided? The next minutes are critical if CS Minaur are to overturn the hosts' momentum late in the game.
Driving Viborg through the late stages have been goalkeeper Anna Kristensen, who has made a number of incredible saves against open chances, as well as back Kristine Jörgensen. Jörgensen has added six goals to her season tally and now counts an overall figure of 67 as she leads the 2021/22 top scorer chart.
43rd minute and one could say Viborg look to be on track for victory, as they maintain command at 22:17, but it's difficult to shake the memory of the first match when Herning-Ikast came back from an even clearer deficit.
All credit to Herning-Ikast for their comeback, but it seems Bietigheim did take their feet off the gas a little, so it will be key for Viborg to keep their focus — and their advantage — in tact to avoid a nervous ending.
The second semi-final resumes with Baia Mare chasing Viborg. A few minutes in, the same gap remains, at 17:14 for Viborg, but CS Minaur still have every chance to close the distance.
Unlike the opening semi-final, the goalkeepers are playing more of a role in this clash, with Anna Kristensen saving six shots at 32 per cent for Viborg in the opening half, while Cristina Enache recorded five saves at 36 per cent in the Romanian team's goal in the same period.
18:43 HALF-TIME THOUGHTS | BY ADRIAN COSTEIU
Here we go with the half-time thoughts on semi-final two from our journalist Adrian Costeiu:
As Viborg jumped to a clear 9:2 lead after only 10 minutes, prompting Minaur’s coach, Raul Fotonea, to take two timeouts, it looked like 'game over' for the Romanian team. The home fans agreed, cheering and celebrating each and every goal scored by Viborg, as the prospect of a final against Bietigheim looked closer and closer. Stunned by the start, Baia Mare slowly got back into the game, led by their centre back, Cristina Laslo, who scored five times in the first half.
However, the gap is still there at the break, with Viborg leading. If we learnt something from the first game, between SG BBM Bietigheim and Herning-Ikast Handbold, well, even a seven-goal gap is not that big and can be erased in the space of a few minutes. But have Baia Mare, who have not won an away game this season, the strength to do that? Difficult, but entirely possible.
18:39 HALF-TIME | VIBORG HK VS CS MINAUR 16:13
Viborg had a much more commanding advantage earlier in the match, leading as clear as seven goals, but still hold the edge at the break — albeit not as clearly and with a distance that leaves Baia Mare plenty of reason to hope.
Viborg must be cautious to not lull themselves into a false sense of security, after seeing how Herning-Ikast turned their semi-final against Bietigheim around, but it sure looks as though the Danish team are the dominant force in the second of Saturday's games.
Just past the end of the first quarter of the game, Viborg lead CS Minaur 11:6, as they enjoy a solid performance.
Throw-off in semi-final two! Will one Danish team reach the final on home turf or will CS Minaur cause an upset?
17:43 BREAKING DOWN THE NUMBERS | BY ADRIAN COSTEIU
Before Viborg and CS Minaur Baia Mare take the court, read journalist Adrian Costeiu's analysis of all the most important numbers:
When Baia Mare conceded a painful 20:39 loss in the group phase against SG BBM Bietigheim, their fate looked to be sealed. But that game prompted a whole change of attitude in the locker room, fueled by the belief that the team could be back at the EHF Finals Women. Their numbers are definitely not helping, with Baia Mare conceding 241 goals so far this seasonn — the most of the teams still in the competition.
But the team bet on themselves and are eyeing a rematch in the final against Bietigheim. Whether that is doable or not, we shall see in the next hours. But with Serbian right back Jelena Lavko — their top scorer with 51 goals — back at full strength after an injury scare, Baia Mare’s prospects just got better.
Hosting such a tournament is both a privilege and an advantage and Viborg HK surely have the mettle to make the small details count. They will have the full support of the Vibocold Arena tonight and for good reason: no team has been able to beat them this season. Viborg won six games and drew the other two, with four of those victories coming on their home court, which has been a stronghold.
One might imagine that the level of motivation for two key players — Kristina Jörgensen and Line Haugsted — will be decisive this evening. Jörgensen, who is the top scorer of the EHF European League Women this season, with 61 goals, will leave this summer for Metz Handball, while Haugsted moves to Györi Audi ETO KC. They have the chance to leave on a high, with an European trophy in their hands.
And here we have THAT goal — the goal that decided the first final berth at the Energi Viborg EHF Finals.
It was Karolina Kudlacz-Gloc's eighth of the match, and surely the most memorable.
17:25 PRE-GAME THOUGHTS | BY ADRIAN COSTEIU
One semi-final down, one to go! Who will follow Bietigheim to the final? And will this second semi-final serve up as much drama as the first? Here we have journalist Adrian Costeiu's pre-match thoughts:
Viborg HK are the most decorated team at the Energi Viborg EHF Finals, having won the EHF Champions League Women and the Women’s EHF Cup three times each, and adding another title — the Cup Winners’ Cup — in 2014. But can they do it again? That is the poignant question. They will be heavily favoured on home court to clinch another trophy, which would add to their impressive tally.
CS Minaur Baia Mare were the only side to qualify from the group phase after securing only five points and they looked like serious underdogs against Sola HK in the quarter-finals. Yet a 40:32 home win turned the odds into their favour and everything clicked for the Romanian side.
If they do it again, they will surely need to learn from another Viborg HK win this season — a 31:20 drubbing of SCM Ramnicu Valcea in the group phase. Bear in mind that Baia Mare have lost against Valcea three times on the domestic front this season, so serious improvement is needed for the Romanian side.
I am super disappointed. It is hard to find the words. We showed that we never give up — it showed in the last 15 minutes, even if we were down by seven goals. We had some fantastic fans in the arena and we are sorry that we could not deliver the win.
“In the end, we had the better finish, just before the final whistle. We prepared fantastic for this game. We knew what we were up against. We defended great for 45 minutes, but they constantly got closer with goals scored by the wings. It was a game on a high level, but I am proud of my team. We worked hard and we are happy to be in the final tomorrow.”
17:05 RESULT | HERNING-IKAST VS BIETIGHEIM 33:34
What a first semi-final! After it looked as though Bietigheim were on their way to a clear victory, Herning-Ikast staged a comeback for the ages — only to be defeated as Karolina Kudlacz-Gloc scored the match winner with to seconds to go.
14 seconds to go and we are on the edge of our seats, as the score stands level at 33:33 with Bietigheim in attack. What a comeback from Herning-Ikast!
Well it's not over yet! With five minutes to go, Herning-Ikast have fought back to a narrower deficit at 29:32 — and the atmosphere in Vibocold Arena is as fiery as it gets.
Bietigheim may have felt a little too comfortable with their clear advantage and the Danish side have profited from that, finding increasing motivation with the shrinking score line.
Bietigheim have also replaced Melinda Szikora in goal, as her saves slowed, but Gabriela Dias has not managed to make a decisive impact so far.
Bietigheim back Karolina Kudlacz-Gloc has now joined Ingevild Bakkerud as the joint-top scorer of the game, with seven goals.
13 minutes played in the second period and the chance of a final berth seems to be slipping away from Herning-Ikast, as Bietigheim have stretched their lead to 26:19. Herning-Ikast coach Kasper Christensen calls his final timeout in an attempt to offer a solution for another comeback, but Bietigheim are certainly looking strong.
The Danish side are trying a more offensive defence and have brought Jessica Ryde into goal in place of Sabine Englert. But the fact that backs Kelly Dulfer and Karolina Kudlacz-Gloc have now reached five goals apiece shows how the Herning-Ikast defence is starting to fade while the Bietigheim back court becomes more dangerous.
The second half in the second semi-final is underway, with Bietigheim so far maintaining the two-goal distance in their favour — 16:14 in the 34th minute.
16:12 HALF-TIME THOUGHTS | BY ADRIAN COSTEIU
Some half-time thoughts on semi-final one, Herning-Ikast vs Bietigheim, courtesy of journalist Adrian Costeiu:
When Bietigheim took a healthy 10:5 lead after 12 minutes, it looked like the game was already over. Their aggressive defence, which shifted constantly, hampered Herning-Ikast’s attack, which never managed to get going. In fact, the Danish team's efficiency for the first half is down to only 46%. However, they still managed to stay alive in this game, after a few tactical tweaks. Kasper Christensen switched from a 6-0 to a 5-1 defence that really hampered the creativity of Bietigheim’s back line, while in attack he constantly substituted the goalkeeper with an outfield player in the last 10 minutes.
That meant that Herning-Ikast are still in the game. But can they mount a true comeback and truly hurt Bietigheim? They will need a perfect second half, which they can definitely deliver. Right now however, the strongest defence in the competition has limited the most effective attack to only 12 goals in 30 minutes. For that part, Bietigheim look to be the favourites.
16:09 HALF-TIME | HERNING-IKAST VS BIETIGHEIM 12:14
The match goes to the half-time break with Herning-Ikast still well within reach, but Bietigheim having essentially held control for the last 25 minutes of the period. Will the German side hold on or will Herning-Ikast turn the tide?
In the individual stats, Veronika Mala leads the scoring chart with five goals for Bietigheim, while Ingvild Bakkerud has scored four for Herning-Ikast. In goal, Sabine Englert has made eight saves for the Danish team and Melinda Szikora has saved five for Bietigheim.
Bietigheim coach Markus Gaugisch responded to Herning-Ikast's comeback with a timeout, after which the Danish team switched to a 5-1 defensive system for a few minutes. Herning-Ikast have now dropped back to 6-0 as the change did little to contain Bietigheim and the gap grew to three goals (8:11 in the 20th minute).
At the other end of the court, Herning-Ikast are having to exert a lot of energy against Bietigheim's solid defence.
End of the first quarter of the game and Herning-Ikast have pulled the game back within their grasp, now just two goals behind at 8:10. Bietigheim have not scored for almost five minutes while the Danish team staged their comeback following a timeout called by coach Kasper Christensen.
What an atmosphere we — and the players on court — are enjoying!
10 minutes in, Bietigheim have created a promising lead at 8:4. Czech left wing Veronika Mala has been a particular key for the German team so far, with three goals from three shots.
Although Melinda Szikora has not made as many saves as Herning-Ikast's Sabine Englert, the Bietigheim defence is showcasing why they have conceded the lowest number of goals in the competition this season as the Danish team are forced to work hard to find solid opportunities.
The first goal of the Energi Viborg EHF Finals goes to Herning-Ikast wing Emma Friis, and after three minutes, the Danish side have the edge at 2:1.
Semi-final one is underway! Bietigheim start in attack and the first shot is saved by Herning-Ikast's German goalkeeper Sabine Englert.
The buzzer has sounded for the teams to leave the court after warm-up and ready themselves for the pre-game procedure. Just 15 minutes until throw-off and the atmosphere in Vibocold Arena is on point, with plenty of drums on hand from both the German and Danish team's supporters.
Herning-Ikast and Bietigheim have arrived and are now on court in Vibocold Arena warming up. Check out some photos of their arrival below — and note how Bietigheim back Kelly Dulfer seems to be a big advocate for one particular nutritious snack!
Checking in on the results of our poll, the two teams set to clash in semi-final one are the favourites to take the title on Sunday — but only one of them can proceed to the trophy match.
14:19 BREAKING DOWN THE NUMBERS | BY ADRIAN COSTEIU
We are just over an hour away from throw-off in the first semi-final, Herning-Ikast vs Bietigheim, and journalist Adrian Costeiu has dug into the numbers for us:
SG BBM Bietigheim had an amazing season, with both an impressive attack and a great defence. But according to the numbers, balance is key in Bietigheim's attack. German right back Julia Maidhof is their top scorer, with 38 goals, followed by Dutch centre back Inger Smith, with 30 goals. This suggests that Bietigheim rely heavily on their back line, which boasts plenty of experience. On the other side, no other team coming to the Energi Viborg EHF Finals have scored more than Herning-Ikast's 265 goals. However, this is also a balanced attacking side, having only one player between the top 25 scorers of the season, Danish left wing Emma Uhrskov Friis, with 42 goals.
Bietigheim are the only side in the two-season history of the EHF European League Women that has a 100 per cent winning record, with eight wins in eight games this season and a superb +70 goal difference. On the other hand, Herning-Ikast Handbold are the team with the highest number of wins in the competition — 15 out of 18 games played, at 83.3 per cent. But as previously mentioned, these are the only two teams that won all the eight games played this season, so something will have to give this afternoon in the Vibocold Arena.
Checking in on the social media accounts of the four semi-finalists, Bietigheim have shared some snaps of their trip to Viborg, and everyone looks to be in great spirits as they headed towards the big weekend.
Turning now to our Energi Viborg EHF Finals hosts, Line Haugsted took us behind the scenes as she examined the upcoming semi-final against CS Minaur, her own experience at the highly decorated Danish club as she prepares to venture abroad to Györ, and the prospect of the home games to elevate her side over the weekend.
"I would like to see as many green people as possible. Our fans are great. It is an advantage — we know the arena very well, because we go there almost every day, so it could tilt the scales our way," said the EHF EURO 2020 All-star Team defender, who is key for Viborg at both ends of the court.
"That should suit us well, so I really hope we can win the first game, against Baia Mare, and then fight for the trophy. It would be huge."
Read the feature with Haugsted here.
No team had a more rocky road to the Energi Viborg EHF Finals than CS Minaur, whose qualification for the quarter-finals came down to results other than their own after their biggest loss ever in the competition (20:39 to Bietigheim). But the Romanian team recovered and booked their second straight participation in the European League semi-finals thanks to a perfect game against Sola in the first-leg quarter-final.
Last season, as hosts of the first EHF Finals Women, CS Minaur were defeated in the semi-final stage.
"We have constantly navigated the difficult moments and here we are, once again, in the top four teams of the competition," says back Andreea Popa of their 2021/22 campaign. "It was more difficult than last season because back then we had a better team and the pressure and expectations were huge, but we also learnt many things about such a tournament."
Today, Baia Mare will meet the hosts of the finals this time around, Viborg, and hope their own experience as hosts will help them take advantage of the situation.
Read the feature with Popa below!
We are really motivated by playing in front of a full arena, in a hostile environment. It helps that we go to Denmark, because we will not understand what they are saying. The cheering or the boos, them dressing in green and supporting their team — nothing will affect us. We will go to Viborg and try to do the best we can, because we have something to prove.
Before things got too serious, we had some fun with the semi-finalists in the #TimeOutChallenge. First up, Herning-Ikast's 22-year-old wing Emma Friis.
Take a look back at how the semi-finalists reached the Energi Viborg EHF Finals! Below, see the highlights of the second-leg matches, as Herning-Ikast, Viborg, CS Minaur and Bietigheim booked their semi-final berths.
Herning-Ikast vs Valcea 33:28 (aggregate 72:61 win)
Bietigheim vs Besancon Feminin 30:20 (aggregate 59:43 win)
Viborg vs Storhamar 38:37 (aggregate 71:68 win)
CS Minaur vs Sola HK 29:29 (aggregate 69:61 win)
Let's jump over to the second team in the opening semi-final: Herning-Ikast. We caught up with their back Sonja Frey for all the scoop on their season as well as her next move — returning to Thüringer HC and also pursuing a part-time career in physiotherapy.
On the semi-final, the Austrian centre back said: "Bietigheim have been playing great in the past season and won all their games, so I think they are the favourites. They are a more experienced team and I think we will need to step it up a bit to make it tough for them."
Frey has never clinched a European cup title in 10 seasons in the international competitions, and hopes to end her time with Herning-Ikast with her first international trophy — and what would be the Danish team's seventh. Most notably, Herning-Ikast won the previous version of the second-tier European cup competition, the EHF Cup, twice, with the latest in 2010/11.
Read the feature here.
Vibocold Arena — where it's all happening this weekend at the Energi Viborg EHF Finals!
11:04 PRE-GAME THOUGHTS | BY ADRIAN COSTEIU
With throw-off edging closer, our journalist for the weekend, Adrian Costeiu, shares his last thoughts on the opening semi-final:
Will this be the time when the penny drops for SG BBM Bietigheim? The German side boast an incredible season, winning all the 35 games they played in three competitions — the German Bundesliga, the German Cup and the EHF European League Women. But they did not face a stronger opponent than Herning-Ikast Handbold this season and their fortunes could turn today, in the first match of the Energi Viborg EHF Finals.
Herning-Ikast will not play at home, per se, but their arena is only 35 kilometers away from the Vibocold Arena, therefore the contigent of fans travelling to cheer for them might boost their chances to play in tomorrow’s final. Whether that happens or not might have something to do with their plan to break Bietigheim’s defence. The German side has conceded 22.3 goals per game this season, constantly frustrating opponents.
Add to the fact that nearly all the players in the German side have plenty of experience, they look like the favourites in the game pitting together the two sides who won all the eight matches they played coming to this point of the season.
At the end of a huge season that has seen them record a run of more than 40 straight wins across all competitions, Beitigheim are a hot favourite here at the Energi Viborg EHF Finals.
Within their squad is Danish back Stine Jørgensen, who joined the German side in 2020 after playing her whole career in Denmark — including several seasons with Bietigheim's semi-final opponents, Herning-Ikast.
"There is no favourite in this match. It is a 50:50 chance to make it to the final. Ikast play an impressive season in the European and the Danish leagues, and though they have a quite young squad, this is composed by world-class players,” says Jørgensen of their opponents.
Jørgensen will return to Denmark at the conclusion of the season, joining FC Copenhagen. Bietigheim have already secured the German league title and hope to add the Cup to that, having reached the final tournament. The Danish back hopes her stint with Bietigheim will end with a treble of titles, with the European League the next to add this weekend.
Read our feature on Jørgensen below!
When you see our squad, you could expect a successful season. Of course, you plan to have this series of victories, but you can never be sure that it will happen. But when we faced top sides like defending champions Nantes or last year’s semi-finalists Baia Mare, it was not only that we won, but they were clear wins, without any doubt.
How well do you know the competition and the semi-finalists? Time to put your knowledge to the test with our trivia quiz. Can you get 10/10 correct?
Saturday 14 May
Good morning and welcome to game day! The semi-finals in the EHF European League Women 2021/22 are now just hours away, with Herning-Ikast vs Bietigheim getting us underway at 15:30 CEST.
At 18:00 CEST, hosts Viborg meet CS Minaur in the second semi-final.
Friday 13 May
In roughly 24 hours, we will know the two teams that will play for the EHF European League Women trophy on Sunday, as both semi-finals will have concluded. Before that big moment, we have an exciting day of action to enjoy.
For now, goodnight, and be sure to join us again tomorrow!
The technical meeting has concluded and the teams have presented their jerseys, the court has been cleaned and the goal-line technology is in place ready for use during the four big matches this weekend — throw-off is well and truly edging closer!
Let's have a closer look at the records of the four semi-finalists — two of which have only recorded wins in the whole season, while only one of the top four sides had defeats in the group games.
Group phase records
- SG BBM Bietigheim: Six wins
- CS Minaur Baia Mare: Two wins, one draw and three losses
- Herning-Ikast Handbold: Six wins
- Viborg HK: Four wins and two draws
Looking at the early results of our poll (scroll down to have your say!), it's clear Herning-Ikast and Bietigheim's great form have caught your attention as they are emerging as the favourites to take the title so far. Interestingly, while Viborg and CS Minaur were seeded directly into the group phase, Herning-Ikast and Bietigheim started their campaigns in qualification round 3, winning both legs of their respective ties to earn passage to the group phase.
The two sides then carried their form right through, taking the biggest victories in the quarter-finals — an 11-goal margin for Herning-Ikast on aggregate versus Valcea and a huge 16-goal difference for Bietigheim over Besancon Feminin.
Will it be one of the two with perfect records who raises the trophy?
Who will score the first goal of the Energi Viborg EHF Finals? As the semi-finals will open with Herning-Ikast vs Bietigheim, it will not be joint-top scorer Kristina Jörgensen and someone else will have the honour.
The Danish back has scored 61 goals so far this season — a tally she shares with Sola wing Camilla Herrem. With CS Minaur's Jelena Lavko the closest behind Jörgensen still in the competition, with 51 goals, Jörgensen looks to be in a prime position to clinch the individual title.
Over 3,000 goals, two teams with perfect records and three nations represented by the semi-final clubs — it's been a thrilling ride to reach the final weekend of the EHF European League Women and you can refresh on all the most important statistics and facts in our Facts and figures compilation below!
We start the weekend with four teams in the race for the EHF European League Women 2021/22 title, before the semi-finals decide the two teams that will battle for the trophy on Sunday. Let us know your thoughts on who will top the podium in our poll below!
So what’s on today, the eve of throw-off? The teams have all arrived in Viborg and are in the last stages of preparations prior to the semi-finals.
Check out some photos of CS Minaur and Bietigheim's training sessions today below!
Before we zone in on the teams and matches, let’s take a look at handball and our host city, Viborg! The Danish city is not unfamiliar to handball fans, with the top-level women’s club boasting a strong history in European competitions. Most notably, the side have won the EHF Champions League three times and the previous format of the European League, the EHF Cup, three times as well.
With such a great handball tradition in the city, it is no surprise that many superstars have worn the green jersey so emblematic of the club — Danish legends such as Anja Andersen, Rikke Skov and Katrine Fruelund, and non-Danes like Katrine Lunde, Isabelle Gullden and Grit Jurack.
Now, the team features several Danish internationals, such as the European League 2021/22 top scorer Kristina Jörgensen and Line Haugsted, who will trade one green jersey for another as she transfers to Györ for the 2022/23 season. While Haugsted will move to Hungary, Jörgensen is set to transfer to Metz. Before they depart at the end of this season, the two will undoubtedly hope to add their name’s to Viborg HK’s history books and collect another trophy for the club’s impressive display cabinet.
It is time for the first title of the 2021/22 European cup season to be decided! All eyes are on Denmark this weekend, as the Energi Viborg EHF Finals take place on Saturday and Sunday.
Four teams remain in the race for the second trophy ever awarded in the EHF European League Women, after Nantes clinched the title in the competition’s debut last season: Herning-Ikast Handbold, SG BBM Bietigheim, CS Minaur Baia Mare and Finals hosts Viborg HK.
Here’s a rundown of the full schedule for the weekend:
Saturday — semi-finals
- 15:30 CEST Herning-Ikast Handbold (DEN) vs SG BBM Bietigheim (GER)
- 18:00 CEST Viborg HK (DEN) vs CS Minaur Baia Mare (ROU)
Sunday — finals
- 15:30 CEST 3/4 placement match
- 18:00 CEST Final
All matches will be streamed live on the free-with-registration platform, EHFTV.
Guiding you through the weekend on eurohandball.com will be Courtney Gahan here on the live blog and journalist Adrian Costeiu, both reporting from Viborg. Be sure to keep up to date by following the competition’s official social media channels as well: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.