17 Feb. 2020
Europe’s third-tier international competition, the Challenge Cup, has reached the quarter-final stage after the conclusion of the men’s Last 16 round over the weekend.
In the men’s competition, teams from Russia, Romania, Czech Republic, Iceland, Norway and Greece are set to contest the quarter-finals. In the women’s, Spain, Croatia, Portugal, Serbia and the Netherlands are represented in the quarter-final stage.
The Challenge Cup is played with no group phase – only a series of two-leg play-offs that comprise each stage, with the winner determined based on the aggregate score.
In the men’s Last 16, the clashes were overall very close. The clearest aggregate victory belonged to Czech side HC Dukla Praha, who defeated Belgian team Red Boys Differdange 66:56 over the two matches.
All of the other Last 16 pairings saw much tighter decisions. Iceland’s Valur beat Turkish club Beykoz BLD SK 57:55 on aggregate, while Greek side A.E.K. Athens won 60:58 against Drammen HK from Norway. Romania’s CSM Bucuresti defeated Swedish side Alingsas HK 53:52, and Norwegian team Halden Topphandball also took a one-goal win – 46:45 versus Russian side HC Neva SPb.
Yet another one-goal aggregate victory belonged to Romanian side Potaissa Turda, who defeated BSV Bern from Switzerland 69:68. Czech team HCB Karvina managed a little more of a cushion against Portuguese side Madeira Andebol, with a final aggregate result of 60:57, as did Russian club HC Victor with their 73:68 result over Israeli team Ramhat Hashron.
In the Women’s Challenge Cup, the margins in the Last 16 were much clearer, with only one result with a final score line of less than 10 goals. That victory belonged to Spanish club Mecalia Atletico Guardes, who defeated Lithuanian ACME-Zalgiris Kaunas 64:57. The second Spanish side to reach the quarter-finals, BM Granollers, beat DHC Sokol Poruba from Czech Republic by 30 goals on aggregate (72:42).
One other nation counts two clubs amongst the quarter-finals: Croatia. ZRK Bjelovar and 2016/17 Challenge Cup winners HC Lokomotiva Zagreb eliminated Israeli team Maccabi Rishon Lezion and SIR 1MAIO/ADA CJB from Portugal (56:46 and 60:37), respectively.
Dutch club JuRo Unirek VZV eliminated Italian side SSV Brixen Südtirol (55:44), while Serbian team ZRK Naisa Nis won clearly against HIB Handball Graz from Austria (60:38). Portuguese side CS Madeira won by very near the same margin against RK Zajecar 1949 from Serbia (62:33).
Due to the withdrawal of Turkish club Ardesen, the Last 16 in the Women’s Challenge Cup saw one less pairing, and Spanish team Aula Alimentos de Valladolid were automatically qualified for the quarter-finals.
The current top scorers in both competitions are part of teams eliminated in the Last 16 stage. In the Men’s Challenge Cup, Differdange’s Damir Batinovic bows out with 34 goals. In the women’s, Kaunas’ Audinga Kniubaite tallies 21.
The women’s quarter-finals will be played from 29 February to 8 March, while the men’s will take place from 21 to 29 March.
More information on the Challenge Cup is available on the official website of European cup competitions.