10 Mar. 2020
One week after the culmination of the core part of the men’s Champions League season, the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League main round came to an end on Sunday evening, and the top eight teams are now ready for the quarter-finals in early April.
The main round consisted of six rounds of matches, played from January to early March. The four top-ranked teams in each of the two playing groups secured progression to the knock-out stage. It was the second round-robin phase of the season, after the teams reached this stage as one of the three top sides on their respective group tables in the first.
Title holders Györi Audi ETO KC had some close calls, but maintained their record unbeaten streak in the competition. The Hungarian team reached 37 consecutive Champions League matches unbeaten with their final victory in the main round, extending a record that began in January 2018 – now two seasons ago.
Györ were the clear winners of Group 2 with their 19 points, thanks to a total of nine wins and one draw across both the preliminary and main round. The remaining quarter-finalists from Group 2 are French side Brest Bretagne Handball, Montenegrin club Buducnost and Romanian team SCM Ramnicu Valcea.
Group 1 saw a tight race for the top, with the first three teams all finishing on 13 points. Thanks to their stronger record in the head-to-head tie between the three, French club Metz Handball secured first despite having one less win than their rivals – five victories, three draws and two losses.
Second-placed Team Esbjerg from Denmark and third-ranked Russian club Rostov-Don each took six wins, one draw and three defeats. Rostov and Metz were both semi-finalists last season. The other 2018/19 semi-finalist from Group 1, Norwegian club Viper Kristiansand, bow out of the 2019/20 season as the sixth-ranked team on the table following only defeats in the main round.
The fourth quarter-finalist in Group 1, Romanian club CSM Bucuresti, had a miraculous campaign to reach the knock-out stage, climbing from last in the group with five rounds remaining to fourth with 11 points – six points ahead of the fifth- and sixth-placed teams.
CSM’s rise was led by a remarkable performance from four-time and current IHF World Player of the Year Cristina Neagu. After returning from injury in November, Neagu appears to be back in peak form, as she scored an incredible 57 goals in the six main round matches starting in January – including two games with 14 goals apiece. With that, Neagu quickly climbed the season’s top scorer ladder, now sitting in fifth with a total of 72 in the season.
The top scorer of the entire Champions League 2019/20 is from Group 2: Buducnost’s Jovanka Radicevic. The Montenegro national team captain tallies 97 goals after a total 12 games in the season.
As the fifth- and sixth-ranked teams in their groups, Hungarian side FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria (Group 1), Slovenian club RK Krim Mercator and Swedish team IK Sävehof (both Group 2), are now eliminated from the title race.
The quarter-finals will be played from 3 to 12 April, with the winners to proceed to the DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL4 in Budapest, taking place from 8 to 10 May. More information on the Champions League can be found on the official website of the competition.
PHOTO: Györi Audi ETO KC