After three years the most coveted trophy of the European club handball returns to hands of the Hungarian powerhouse Györi AUDI ETO KC. The 2013 and 2014 winners beat HC Vardar 31:30 after extra-time in a thrilling final game of the TIPPMIX EHF FINAL4 and clinched their third EHF Champions League title in five years.
In front of the sold-out crowd of 12.000 spectators in the Papp Laszlo Budapest Sportarena the team with the best defence of the competition prevailed over the best attacking side and the newcomers in the final.
TIPPMIX EHF FINAL4, FINAL:
Győri Audi ETO KC (HUN) vs HC Vardar (MKD) 31:30 after extra-time (26:26, 15:12)
Two-time Champions League winners Győri Audi KC took on Macedonian powerhouse Vardar, who were after their first triumph in the ultimate game of the Women’s EHF Champions League season. The final was a game of different handball schools: Györ was the team with the best defence while Vardar has been a free scoring side all year.
There were two (and a half) players, who faced their former teams in the 2017 TIPPMIX EHF FINAL4, Jovanka Radicevic and Andrea Lekic left Györ to join Vardar, while Eduarda Amorim played in Skopje, however, her team was Kometal.
"It was almost just like last year, but the better team has won. Great defence and good enough offence, that was what we needed. We wanted to be in the final of the FINAL4 but with a little difference: We wanted to win," Györ coach Ambros Martin said.
"The atmosphere was great, the fans were amazing. Congratulations to Györ and I would like to say 'thank you' to our team. It was difficult to change the head coach three times in the season. I am proud of my team," said Irina Dibirova, who took over only a few weeks before the final tournament.
Görbicz leads the way
The final was expected to be a battle between Vardar’s attackers and Györ’s defence but the first minutes proved these games are extremely hard to predict. The Macedonian offence regularly found the way past the Hungarian team’s wall, but it was Györ who got to the driver’s seat by outstanding attacking plays.
Anita Görbicz was on fire scoring three of her team’s first six goals from the wing and Nycke Groot also started well, but Inna Suslina made some nice saves to keep the home side on a short leash. Vardar’s left side of Jovanka Radicevic and Alexandra Lacrabere was particularly dangerous but it was top scorer Andrea Penezic, who equalised (9:9) in the 15th minute with a thunderbolt from 10 meters.
Györ’s defence takes centre stage
Györ were up front, but the amount of conceded goals was unusual for Ambros Martín’s team. However, when Kari Aalvik Grimsbö made two important saves in a row Györ seemed to gather momentum as the margin grew to three goals (13:10) in the 20th minute.
The home side’s wall kept Grimsbö’s goal untouchable for 13 minutes (!) and but they could not make the most of Vardar’s long goalless run as the visitors’ defence worked well, too.
Görbicz remained outstanding but all other star players were taken out of the game by excellent defending so it did not really matter that neither goalkeepers were superb. Nevertheless, Györ had a three-goal lead at the break.
Intensive battle continues
The second half started with technical faults from both sides, open chances and penalties were missed as Mayssa Pessoa and Grimsbø became protagonists for the first minutes of the second half. After ten balanced minutes Zsuzsa Tomori came in as a clutch substitute and scored two goals to keep Györ up front (42nd minute: 19:17) but the intensive battle burned a lot of energy and it could have been felt that physical strength will be a decisive factor.
Defences continued to dominate the final and as the teams entered the last 15 minutes every move became crucial. Lacrabere kept her nerve from the penalty line but Groot scored twice to maintain her team’s narrow lead.
Can’t get any more exciting!
Anja Althaus scored four goals in a row and Vardar equalised as the teams entered the last ten minutes, in addition the Macedonian team had a chance to take the lead but Radicevic hit the post. The battle of nerves continued to the last minutes, it could have been felt that nothing but fitness will decide the outcome of the final.
67 seven seconds from the final whistle Györ were leading by one goal and shorthanded Vardar took their last time-out. Tamara Mavsar scored from the wing and Mørk commited an offensive foul so the Macedonian side had 20 seconds to go for the title, yet they could not find a way. Just like last year the final went into extra-time.
Győr win the battle of giants
In the deafening noise Györ made a flying start and two goals from Groot and yet another penalty from Görbicz pushed Vardar to the edge but the relentless Skopje team refused to bow down. Mavsar and Lekic brought them back to life by two vital goals to cut Györ’s lead to just one goal.
A clever goal from Jana Knedlikova was answered by Lacrabere’s penalty but Mørk doubled Györ’s lead. After another Vardar penalty Györ had one minute to kill, which they succesfully did to claim the title after the breathtaking final.Author: Bence Mártha / br
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