Dramatic clashes see four quarter-finalists berths sealed in the EHF Champions League Women

25 Mar. 2024

Dramatic clashes see four quarter-finalists berths sealed in the EHF Champions League Women

After four dramatic double-headers in the play-offs of the EHF Champions League Women, the schedule for the quarter-finals is complete, with two Hungarian sides, two Danish sides and one team from Norway, Romania, Germany and France each completing the line-up.

FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria, last season’s runners-up, provided yet another scintillating comeback against a French side, after securing their spot in the EHF FINAL4 in the previous season with a seven-goal win against Metz Handball, after conceding a six-goal loss in the first leg. 

This time around, FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria lost on their home court against Brest Bretagne Handball, 28:30, but turned the doubleheader around with a fabulous 31:26 win in the second leg, after Dutch right wing Angela Malestein scored 10 times, left back Emily Bölk had seven goals and Hungarian right back Katrin Klujber added six goals,.

With a 59:56 aggregate win, FTC have now back-to-back appearances in the quarter-finals, where they qualified six times in the past nine seasons, while Brest, which had a great run of form to conclude the group phase, have been eliminated and miss the quarter-finals for the second season in a row.

Another dramatic doubleheader was the one between Vipers Kristiansand and DVSC Schaeffler, with the reigning champions needing a last-gasp goal from Lois Abbingh, one of the most clutch players in women’s handball, to see them through to the quarter-finals.

In the first leg, Vipers clinched a 29:28 win in Debrecen, with the Norwegian powerhouse relying heavily on Abbingh, who had 13 goals. The second leg, in Norway, was even more dramatic, with DVSC taking a five-goal lead at the break, only for Vipers to wrestle back the lead, lose it, and eventually secure a 27:27 draw, after Abbingh scored with a powerful shot from 10 metres away with six seconds to go.

With a 56:55 aggregate win, Vipers avoided being the reigning champions eliminated the earliest in the past 13 seasons in the European premium competition, with the Norwegian side still in disarray after a roller-coaster of a season.

Another hard-fought battle was the one between SG BBM Bietigheim and Ikast Handbold, with the latter side impressing in the group phase, where they finished third, below Metz Handball and Team Esbjerg, the team which boasts the 2023 IHF Female Player of the Year in their ranks, Henny Reistad.

Bietigheim, the German champions, which had a barren run of form before the play-offs, had the upper hand after a 29:27 win on their home court, only to take a 18:13 lead at the break in the second leg, holding their ground until the end for a 31:31 draw.

Six goals from Antje Doll and Xenia Smits helped seal the quarter-finals berth for Bietigheim, the first in their history, with a crunch match against Odense Handbold following for the German side, with one sure-fire debutant in the EHF FINAL4 now confirmed.

The most lopsided doubleheader was the one between CSM Bucuresti and Krim Mercator Ljubljana, as the Romanian side clinched their ninth consecutive quarter-finals berth with two identic 30:24 wins.

Cristina Neagu was the best player of the two legs, as the second all-time top goal scorer of the EHF Champions League Women scored 16 of CSM’s 60 goals in the two matches.

In the quarter-finals, the reigning champions, Vipers, face the most decorated team in the last decades, Győri Audi ETO KC, in a battle of the titans, a rematch of last season’s final. 

Another interesting battle will be the one between CSM Bucuresti and Metz Handball, a rekindling of the rivalry between the two sides which faced off two times in the quarter-finals, while Odense and Esbjerg look to be favourites against Bietigheim and FTC.

EHF Champions League Women – play-offs results

FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) vs Brest Bretagne Handball (FRA) 59:56 on aggregate
SG BBM Bietigheim (GER) vs Ikast Handbold (DEN) 60:58 on aggregate
Krim Mercator Ljubljana (SLO) vs CSM Bucuresti (ROU) 48:60 on aggregate
DVSC Schaeffler (HUN) vs Vipers Kristiansand (NOR) 55:56 on aggregate

EHF Champions League Women – Quarter-finals schedule

Vipers Kristiansand (NOR) vs Győri Audi ETO KC (HUN)
CSM București (ROU) vs Metz Handball (FRA)
SG BBM Bietigheim (GER) vs Odense HĂĄndbold (DEN)
FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (HUN) vs Team Esbjerg (DEN)

Photo credit: Krim Mercator Ljubljana / EHF / Kolektiff