Defending champions CSM Bucuresti finished third in the TIPPMIX EHF FINAL4 after the Romanian side controlled the third-place match against Buducnost from start to finish.
TIPPMIX EHF FINAL4, third-place match:
Buducnost (MNE) vs CSM Bucuresti (ROU) 20:26 (12:13)
Prior to the third-place game a Johnny K. Palmer show set the mood for both sets of fans, who did not only welcome their own players when they were introduced.
The Buducnost tribe gave a warm welcome to Majda Mehmedovic, who left the Montenegrin side at the beginning of this season, while the CSM sectors did not only cheer for Cristina Neague because she is Romanian but because she is joining the Bucuresti outfit this next summer.
"I’m very dissapointed because of the result, and the game. I’m a little bit upset too, beacause I didn’t played too much on the bronze match, but I’m very thankful for the years I spent in Buducnost, they were my best years in my career. Now, I focus on CSM, and I hope, whith my new team I also win medals and trophies, maybe next year in the FINAL4!" Neagu said after the game.
Both teams seemed determined to finish the season on a high note, the Romanian side obviously wanted to stand on the podium as title holders – not to mention their enthusiastic supporters, who made the trip to Budapest in huge numbers.
The golden team of Buducnost was playing the last game in the Podgorica outfit and they had a spell to break: since their victory in 2015 they did not win a single game in the FINAL4.
Goalkeeping issues continue
Both teams had problems in goal in the semi-finals, neither Darly Zoqbi de Paula, nor Paula Ungureanu or Jelena Grubisic managed to become the game changing element they usually are. It was the Romanian goalkeeper who found the rhythm and CSM gathered momentum from Ungureanu’s saves.
On the other hand Zoqbi De Paula had to be taken off due to lack of saves and Marta Batinovic took her place, but it was not only about goalkeepers.
The once-dreaded Buducnost defence was shaky and nowhere near as aggressive as they usually are, which the defending champions made good use of by taking a 7:4 lead by the 15th minute.
Batinovic changes the game
Katarina Bulatovic and Cristina Neagu, who were fighting for the top scorer’s crown (albeit with little hope) were relentlessly trying in the first half, but their combined 15 shots yielded only 6 goals.
Problems were mounting for Dragan Adzic as Bella Gulldén and Oana Manea were on fire and the Romanian team seemed to be in control of the game with Ungureanu throwing amazing saves left and right.
"In the beggining we had upps and downs. After Saturday's result we really wanted to have some revenge today. We showed that we wanted this medal. It was a good revenge. It's still a bronze medal and we have two medals in two years, so this is really good for our team," Gullden commented after the game.
However, all Adzic needed was to find his defence and goalkeeper: the Montenegrin side pulled off a great run in the last minutes of the first half to cut CSM’s lead to just one goal (12:13) after Batinovic made five clutch saves in eight minutes and Buducnost finally scored some easy goals.
Youngsters sent in to change the tide
As Batinovic continued to impress Buducnost managed to stay close to CSM, however the defending champions held on to their narrow lead thanks to Bella Gulldén’s perfect shooting (6/6 in the 40th minute).
Adzic sent in his youngsters and Djurdjina Jaukovic, Ema Ramusovic and Ivona Pavicevic did not disappoint proving there will be life in Podgorica after a set of superstar players leave this summer, but 20 years old players were tasked to turn the game around against the title holders. They gave their all but the margin started to grow (15:20) when the last 15 minutes came.
CSM not only attacked well but their defence proved too strong for the young Buducnost players, who on top of that were unlucky in a number of occasions. Gulldén, who scored 9 goals without missing a shot, came close to current top scorer Andrea Penezic but finished two goals behind the Croatian star – who still has a game in hand.
CSM’s Per Johansson did a great job with the Romanian side as they finished third after the unlucky semi-final, while a new future will start for Buducnost next season.
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