Two great shot-stoppers ready to deliver drama in Match of the Week

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EHF / Adrian Costeiu

16 games have now passed in the new season of the EHF Champions League Women, but one big showdown is just around the corner, throwing off round 3 of the group phase. Over the last seven years, CSM Bucuresti and Györi Audi ETO KC have clashed 10 times, with the Hungarian side taking eight wins before this round’s Match of the Week.

However, one of CSM’s two wins came in a crucial moment. Seven years ago, the Romanian side clinched the trophy in a nail-biting match at the EHF FINAL4, one of the most dramatic in the history of the premier European competition, which needed penalties to decide the winner.

Time has passed and only one of Györ’s players – Yvette Broch – still features for the Hungarian side, while three of CSM’s players – Cristina Varzaru, Iulia Curea and Alina Iordache – are still present at the Romanian club, but as a sporting director, assistant coach and goalkeeper’s coach, respectively.

None of the positions come without challenges, but Iordache’s might be the easiest one, as the talent CSM have gathered between the posts is exceptional. Norway’s Marie Davidsen was the top goalkeeper last season, with Laura Glauser and Evelina Eriksson completing the line-up.

This time around, though, Glauser looks to be shining for CSM; being named the top goalkeeper in the Romanian Super Cup, which the Romanian champions also won, but also delivering two excellent performances in the EHF Champions League Women so far.

Glauser, who featured for Györ between 2020 and 2022 and joined CSM from the Hungarian powerhouse, has the largest number of saves in the top European competition after two rounds, 36, with a 43.3% saving efficiency. Outstanding numbers, especially when facing Odense and SG BBM Bietigheim.

This has been a huge uptick in her performance and it gives plenty of confidence for CSM to turn things around after their unexpected showing against Bietigheim, with the German club delivering the first loss of the season for Adrian Vasile’s side.

“I think the start of the season has been quite good for us, and for me, I had some very good games, but it is also thanks to my teammates, who did a good job in defence, because it is impossible to do anything without a good defence,” says Glauser.

However, the French goalkeeper will have the toughest test of the season so far, as Györ are renowned for the quality of their players and the multitude of solutions they bring to the table in attack.

Yet, the Hungarian side still has aces up their sleeve in defence, one which is spearheaded by another ace between the posts, Denmark’s stalwart Sandra Toft, who has long been one of the best goalkeepers in the world.

“Of course, Györ are a very tough nut to crack, they are one of the best teams in the world, because they have so much firepower. On the other hand, they also have one of the best goalkeepers in handball right now, Sandra Toft, who is an amazing player and can be unstoppable at times,” adds Glauser.

Indeed, Toft signed for Györ in 2022 with only thought on her mind: to win the EHF Champions League Women. Toft, the All-star goalkeeper at the EHF EURO 2016 and the EHF EURO 2020, as well as the 2021 IHF Women’s World Championship, will be an integral part of the Hungarian side’s challenge for another trophy.

“Winning the EHF Champions League title? It is not necessarily an objective for me, it is more of a dream. It was one of the reasons I chose Györ when I signed for them and this is why I really want to have good performances and win matches,” says Toft.

The Danish shot stopper has been sharing duties with Dutch goalkeeper Rinka Duijndam at the start of the season and has also delivered good performances, stopping 23 shots for a 33.8% saving efficiency in the first two matches.

Chances are that Toft will need more of the same, if not even a better performance against CSM, were Györ to extend their winning streak to three matches in this start of the season and her performance will be key.

“Of course, if you only look at CSM’s roster, they have a huge amount of firepower which can really inflict some pain on the defence. They have good shooters in the back court, good line players, good wings, they are really a team which can create plenty of danger,” adds Toft.

“Laura is also a very good goalkeeper, something to add to that excellent squad, so we will have a very, very tough game ahead of us, but I hope that we can win.”

Both Toft (in 2015) and Glauser (in 2021) have been named in the All-star Team of the EHF Champions League Women, a testament to their excellent performances throughout their careers. This time around, in the Match of the Week of Round 3, they will need some more of the same, to create a perfect amount of drama. There will not be a penalty shootout, but the goalkeepers will surely be crucial.

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