Lada looking for a return to the golden days
An ever-present on the European scene, it is only right that Lada grace the new-look European League Women.
The Togliatti talent factory may have seen one of the latest bright hopes move on but we are certain to see more rising stars come to the fore in the group phase.
- in search of their first European title since 2014
- knocked out at the quarter-final stage of the EHF Cup last season
- reputation as a talent factory with the likes of Daria Dmitrieva, Polina Kuznetzova and Irina Bliznova learning their trade here
- last season’s top scorer Elena Mikhaylichenko left for CSKA over the summer
The burning question – Is European glory attainable
Russian clubs are well-suited to dominating the second tier in European women’s handball and Lada have played their part in that reputation, having won the EHF Cup in 2012 and 14.
Since losing the Cup Winners’ Cup Final in 2016, however, Lada have found success harder to come by with a quarter-final exit in last season’s EHF Cup their best result. A similar feat will be expected, even though they are without last season’s revelation Elena Mikhaylichenko, who moved to CSKA.
The four Russian teams in this season’s European League are evenly matched but Lada will be buoyed by recent form, including a victory over Astrakhanochka over Christmas.
Flying Olga Fomina
Fomina was the only Lada player to feature for Russia at EHF EURO 2020 and has been a regular throughout the past decade for the national team.
The right wing spent the majority of her career with the Togliatti-based club, from 2003 to 2014, before spells at Vardar and Rostov. Her top-flight international experience and composure under pressure has made her a key player for the club since her return in 2019.
Bright spark – Valeriia Kirdiasheva
She has just turned 20 but Valeriia Kirdiasheva has emerged as a leader in Lada’s attack. She was an All-star centre back at the 2018 Youth World Championship, leading Russia to gold.
The dynamic playmaker has an eye for a pass and a keen taste for goals, as shown by her 32 goals in Europe last season and top scoring for the side in domestic action this year. All the signs point towards Kirdiasheva being the next big name to emerge from Togliatti.
A night to remember
In 2007, Lada played their one and only EHF Champions League final. Taking on the formidable Slagelse, who had won two of the last three titles, they needed a big performance in the first leg at home.
2500 fans packed into the arena to witness n intense and well-played game where both teams had the victory within reach in the dying minutes.
The Danish side held the upper hand for much of the game, before a 4:0 run early in the second half gave Lada belief with backs Liudmilla Postnova and Irina Bliznova as well as left wing Ekatarina Marennikova pulling the strings in attack. The hosts seemed to decide the game as they went from 25:25 to 28:25 with less than three minutes left.
However, a fantastic Slagelse finish – again with the help of a fantastic Cecilie Leganger in the goal – meant that the Danes took the lead at 29:28 with less than a minute to go. Lada managed to equalise in the dying seconds, but it was not enough in the end as a week later, Slagelse won the second leg 32:24.
Arrivals and departures
Arrivals: Liubov Arishina (Busan Bisco)
Departures: Elena Mikhaylichenko, Eva Demidovich, Viktoriya Kipen (CSKA Moscow), Irina Bliznova Irina (retired)
EHF Champions League:
Finalists (1): 2006/07
Winners (2): 2011/12, 2013/14
Cup Winners’ Cup:
Winners (1): 2001/02
National league: 6 titles (2002-06, 08)
National cup: 1 title (2006)