Esbjerg survive scare to reach maiden EHF FINAL4
CSM Bucuresti led by as many as three goals in the early exchanges of their EHF Champions League Women quarter-finals second leg on Sunday, but a second half collapse saw Team Esbjerg celebrate their first-ever EHF FINAL4 berth after a tense game ended in a deadlock, 27:27.
Esbjerg will now join Györi Audi ETO KC, reigning champions Vipers Kristiansand and Metz Handball for the EHF FINAL4, which takes place in the MVM Dome in Budapest on 4-5 June.
QUARTER-FINAL, SECOND LEG
Team Esbjerg (DEN) vs CSM Bucuresti (ROU) 27:27 (12:14)
First leg: 26:25. Team Esbjerg won 53:52 on aggregate
- this was only the second game this season when Esbjerg were down at half-time and the first match when the Danish side had a two-goal deficit to cancel
- however, Esbjerg’s flawless defence displayed throughout the season took charge in the second half, limiting CSM to only 13 goals scored in the last 30 minutes of the game
- Esbjerg’s comeback was also due to a superb second half display from goalkeeper Dinah Eckerle, who saved 10 shots, for a 45 per cent saving efficiency
- the Player of the Match of the Week in the first leg, Esbjerg left back KristineBreistøl, had her second best-ever game in the EHF Champions League Women, scoring nine times
- CSM failed to reach the EHF FINAL4 for the fourth season in a row, after losing their last three quarter-finals
Esbjerg in seventh heaven after 7:2 run
For 40 minutes, CSM looked well placed to hand Esbjerg their first home loss in the EHF Champions League this season, thanks to some amazing goalkeeping from Jelena Grubisic and stone-cold shots from their backs. Yet the late-game collapse – a trait which has plagued them throughout the season – came again in the second half, when Esbjerg went on a 7:2 run that changed the outcome of the game.
While Sunday’s contest ended in a draw, CSM will surely lament the last-gasp goal conceded in the first leg in Bucharest. The Romanian champions had the ball, but an open-goal shot by Eduarda Amorim was saved by Eckerle and line player Vilde Ingstad scored on the ensuing attack in the last seconds of the game. That goal was worth its weight in gold, essentially lifting Esbjerg to the EHF FINAL4.
CSM could still be represented in Budapest by Cristina Neagu, whose 110 goals – 16 more than Nora Mork – makes her the leading challenger for the competition’s top scorer title. It would be the third time in the history of the competition that Neagu is awarded the top goal scorer award, tying her with Nataliya Derepasko and Natalia Morskova.
I could not have got a better end to my career than playing in the Final4 with Team Esbjerg. I am really proud of the team; we have been working so hard this season and have dreamed of this