04 Apr. 2022
Two action-packed weekends delivered both the quarter-final pairings and the first team to seal an EHF FINAL4 berth in the EHF Champions League Women, as the play-off phase of the competition yielded surprising results.
After Russian powerhouse Rostov-Don were eliminated from the competition due to the ongoing Russian invasion in Ukraine, the winner of the play-off tie between Metz Handball and BV Borussia 09 Dortmund was going to progress to the last act of the competition, due to take place in Budapest on 4 and 5 June.
Coming into the play-offs on a five-game losing streak, the German champions stood little chance against Metz, extending their streak to seven games, their worst-ever in all of their participations in the European premium competition.
With a convincing 62:41 aggregate win, Metz Handball progressed to the EHF FINAL4 for the first time since the 2018/19 season, despite finishing third in the group phase, conceding four losses. However, Emmanuel Mayonnade’s side, who recently signed centre back Grace Zaadi, definitely bolstering their depth in the squad, have just ticked the third season with at least 11 wins in their history in the EHF Champions League Women.
The biggest surprise of the play-off phase came in the doubleheader between RK Krim Mercator and FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria. The Hungarian champions, who started the group phase with a seven-game unbeaten streak, were eyeing their first-ever EHF FINAL4 berth, but fell short once again.
The backbone of Krim’s 55:52 aggregate win was winning the first leg by a seven-goal margin, 33:26, which was doubled down by controlling the second game until the dying minutes, when FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria could only muster a 26:22 win.
Signed by Krim after leaving CSKA Moscow midseason, right back Ana Gros, the top scorer of the competition last season, scored 17 of Krim’s 55 goals in this doubleheader, being the crucial ingredient for the Slovenian side’s progression to the quarter-finals.
This is Krim’s best season in the European premium competition since the 2012/13 season, when they made the semi-finals, but lost against Norwegian powerhouse Larvik HK.
The most balanced game in the play-offs was the double-header pitting Odense Håndbold and Brest Bretagne Handball together. Odense took a 25:24 win in the first leg, but collapsed in the final minutes of the second game, enabling Brest to take an aggregate 53:51 win.
The French champions are now back in the quarter-finals of the competition, after securing the second place last season, but will face a tough clash against Győri Audi ETO KC, the only team that lost only one game this season in the competition.
Reigning champions Vipers Kristiansand, who boast two gold medallists of the 2021 IHF Women’s World Championship, will face RK Krim Mercator in the quarter-finals, while CSM București face Team Esbjerg.
CSM, who still boast the top scorer of the competition this season, Cristina Neagu (94 goals), were slated to feature in the play-offs against CSKA Moscow, but the Russian champions were eliminated from the competition.
The quarter-finals will take place in a double-header system, with the first leg scheduled on 30 April and the second leg one week later. The EHF FINAL4 is scheduled to be held in Budapest on 4 and 5 June.
EHF Champions League Women – Quarter-final pairings
CSM București (ROU) vs Team Esbjerg (DEN)
Brest Bretagne Handball (FRA) vs Győri Audi ETO KC (HUN)
RK Krim Mercator (SLO) vs Vipers Kristiansand (NOR)
Metz Handball (FRA) vs Rostov-Don (RUS) 20:0*
*Rostov-Don and CSKA Moscow were excluded from the EHF Champions League Women, due to the ongoing Russian invasion in Ukraine
For more information, visit eurohandball.com.
Photo: Odense Håndbold