Race to quarter-finals gets exciting finish
Eight teams, four tickets to the quarter-finals: the play-offs in the EHF Champions League Women 2022/23 end this weekend with the all-decisive second-leg matches. Who will join directly qualified Vipers Kristiansand, CSM Bucuresti, Metz Handball, and Györi Audi ETO KC in the quarter-finals?
Last week’s first leg presented fans across the continent with four interesting clashes. All teams meet again for the reverse fixture this weekend.
Team Esbjerg defend a three-goal advantage over Brest Bretagne Handball in the Match of the Week on Sunday.
FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria and Odense Håndbold also start their home matches – against WHC Buducnost BEMAX and Storhamar Håndball Elite, respectively – after winning the away leg.
However, CS Rapid Bucuresti chase a five-goal deficit against Krim Mercator Ljubljana after losing the first leg in Slovenia.
PLAY-OFFS, SECOND LEG
FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) vs WHC Buducnost BEMAX (MNE) – first leg 28:24
Saturday 25 March, 16:00 CET, live on EHFTV
- FTC earned a hard-fought win in the first leg, led by right wing Angela Malestein and goalkeeper Blanka Bíró
- Buducnost goalkeeper Armelle Attingré had 16 saves (37%) in the first leg and team captain Milena Raicevic scored nine times
- FTC eye their 10th quarter-final appearance, but the first since 2018/19; Buducnost played in 17 quarter-finals in 27 seasons
- FTC's Katrin Klujber is the third-best top scorer in the competition with 96 goals; Milena Raicevic lead for Buducnost with 82
- FTC head coach Gábor Elek: "We got a good result in the first leg, but that cannot make us feel comfortable. We want to beat Buducnost at home, our fantastic fans also deserve to enjoy a winning match."
- FTC easily won their midweek domestic game: 40:20 against NEKA
- the winners of this tie will play Metz in the quarter-finals
Odense Håndbold (DEN) vs Storhamar Håndball Elite (NOR) – first leg 30:22
Saturday 25 March, 18:00 CET, live on EHFTV
- Odense secured the biggest win in the first leg – by eight goals – to close in on what would be the club’s second quarter-final berth
- Odense would meet Györ in the quarter-finals – just like in their only previous appearance at this stage, in 2018/19
- Storhamar won two away matches in the group phase, but not against any team that progressed to the knockout phase
- the Norwegian side score the fewest number of goals per match from all teams left in the competition: 26.5
- however, only three teams conceded fewer goals per match than Odense: 26.3
- Odense suffered a big 30:19 loss to Esbjerg Wednesday in the last game of the regular season in Denmark and lost the top position to them
Double confrontations like this always have a special flavour and are full of twists and turns. We had the opportunity to prepare for a week for this return match, we will go to Denmark to play the best game possible, show the same face as in the first game and turn things around and qualify for the quarter-finals.
MOTW: Team Esbjerg (DEN) vs Brest Bretagne Handball (FRA) – first leg 28:25
Sunday 26 March, 14:00 CEST, live on EHFTV
- both goalkeepers were dominant in the first leg, with Anna Kristensen stopping 18 shots for Esbjerg while Julie Foggea had 14 saves for Brest
- last week was the first time Esbjerg beat Brest in their five meetings so far
- Brest eye progression to the quarter-finals for the fourth straight time
- a victory would be Esbjerg’s 40th win in the competition and would send them through to the quarter-finals for the third time
- Esbjerg’s Henny Reistad tops the goal scorer standings, with 115 goals, an average of 7.6 per game
- Esbjerg lost only once at home this season, in the first round of the group phase against Györ
- Esbjerg boosted their confidence with a 30:19 win over Odense on Wednesday; Brest had no match in the French league
- Esbjerg right back Nora Mørk: "The job is far from done. At the moment we are in a good flow with many wins and we want to keep that momentum on Sunday."
- the winners of this tie will play CSM in the quarter-finals
We will use the atmosphere in the arena to put as much pressure on Krim as possible. We need good stops in defence and good saves from our goalkeepers to get fast breaks. Anything is possible, like in the first match, where we led by five goals in the first 15 minutes. Anything can happen.
CS Rapid Bucuresti (ROU) vs Krim Mercator Ljubljana (SLO)– first leg 24:29
Sunday, 26 March, 16:00 CEST, live on EHFTV
- Rapid have not lost a home game so far in their debut season in the EHF Champions League, winning six times and securing one draw
- this is Krim’s 300th match in the EHF Champions League; only fellow play-off contenders Buducnost have played more games: 317
- two years ago, Krim also won the first leg of the play-offs by five goals (25:20 against CSKA) but still went out after losing the second leg by six goals (27:21)
- Krim's Nina Žabjek: "We will start from the first minute just like we played the second half in Ljubljana: we will be ready for a tough fight and we will improve both attack and defence. Peace of mind is the most important thing, we are focused on winning and playing even better."
- Krim right wing Jovanka Radicevic is her team’s top scorer and the fifth best scorer of the season with 87 goals; she has a record 1,065 career goals in Europe’s top flight
- Krim have never won an away match in Romania, drawing only once and losing 12 times in 13 matches so far