19 Nov. 2019
The first stage of the Europe’s premier international women’s club competition, the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League, came to an end on Sunday night. Following almost two months of games in the group matches phase, the top 12 teams in the competition have secured their places in the main round, set to begin in January 2020.
The group matches saw 16 European clubs drawn into four groups of four, with the top three teams in each group continuing to the main round. Each team played every side in their group twice – home and away. In 2019/20, only two teams made it through the group matches with perfect winning records: the defending champions from Hungary, Györi Audi ETO KC, and French club Brest Bretagne Handball.
While Brest topped Group C with the maximum 12 points, Györ won Group D. As such, both proceed to main round Group 2. From Group C, Montenegrin team Buducnost and Romanian side SCM Ramnicu Valcea follow Brest to the main round as the second- and third-ranked teams. From Group D, Swedish squad IK Sävehof – the only club represented in both the Men’s and Women’s Champions Leagues this season – and Slovenian team RK Krim Mercator booked the main round berths alongside Györ.
Brest were not the only French team to win their group – 2018/19 season semi-finalists Metz Handball also celebrated that success. Although they did not win all their matches, Metz were unbeaten, with four victories and two draws that saw them place first in Group A with 10 points. The draws came against Hungarian club FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria, and their bronze-medal match opponents from last season, Norwegian team Vipers Kristiansand.
Vipers and FTC were the other teams from Group A to secure main round berths, thereby joining Russian club Rostov-Don, Danish side Team Esbjerg and Romanian squad CSM Bucuresti in main round Group 1.
Rostov were the only group winners who were not undefeated in the phase, having suffered a loss to Esbjerg away in Denmark in mid-October. Nevertheless, their four wins and one draw earned nine points that proved enough to top the table. Esbjerg were close behind with eight points, while CSM were third with seven, making Group B by far the closest among the sides that would proceed to the main round.
Croatian team HC Podravka Vegeta placed fourth in Group A, Polish side MKS Perla Lublin had that position in Group B, and German club SG BBM Bietigheim and Czech squad DHK Banik Most were the fourth-placed sides in Groups C and D. All four teams therefore exit the competition at this point.
At the end of the group matches, Buducnost’s Jovanka Radicevic is the top scorer of the competition, with 49 goals. In joint-second are Brest’s Ana Gros and FTC’s Katrin Klujber, with 40 goals.
Many of the Champions League players will soon leave their clubs to prepare for the 24th IHF Women’s World Championship, throwing off on 30 November in Japan, with their respective national teams. The main round of the Champions League will then begin at the end of January, from which the top four clubs in each group qualify for the quarter-finals, to be played in April 2020. The semi-finals and finals will be held over one weekend in Budapest on 9 and 10 May.
More information on the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League is available on the official competition website.
PHOTO: European Handball Federation