15 Feb. 2021
102 exciting games have been played in the DELO EHF Champions League, as the group phase of Europe’s top women’s club competition is now complete.
Hosted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the competition had its challenges, with ten other games failing to be played in due time, with their results being assessed by the European Handball Federation.
Moreover, the playing schedule was adapted for the Round of 16 and all teams from the group phase were promoted to the play-offs of the competition, the card for the next round featuring eight double-headers.
Hungarian powerhouse Györi Audi ETO KC continued their superb undefeated run to clinch first place in Group B. For the past three years and one month, Györ have not conceded a single loss, reaching a remarkable milestone, a 51-game unbeaten streak, with 43 wins and eight draws.
Their last convincing win, 31:24 against CSKA Moscow, secured them the first place in the group, while the Russian side finished second.
In Group A, Rostov-Don had to sweat, but finally clinched first place in their group as well, after winning their last two games, 24:23 against Vipers Kristiansand and 26:24 against FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria.
Metz Handball finished the group with four wins in their last five games, but could only muster second place in the ranking with 20 points, one less than Rostov.
The most interesting clash in the Round of 16 will surely be the 100 per cent Romanian affair between SCM Ramnicu Valcea and CSM Bucuresti. CSM finished third in their group, while Valcea ended on the sixth place, but there is no love lost between the two sides. Valcea, a perennial underdog, snatched the title against CSM two seasons ago, while also winning the Romanian Cup in September 2020, after a passionate clash between the two teams.
An old school game featuring Buducnost and FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria will also light up the card in the Round of 16, with both sides eyeing a DELO EHF FINAL4 berth in Budapest.
Györ and Rostov-Don are considered favourites against SG BBM Bietigheim and Podravka Vegeta, with their opponents combining for three wins in 28 games, while Metz Handball and CSKA are in a similar position against Borussia Dortmund and RK Krim Mercator, teams that won six games between them, less than CSKA (11 wins) and Metz (10 wins) alone.
Gros and Neagu fight for top scorer title
The 16 sides taking part in the DELO EHF Champions League combined for 5,604 goals in the 102 games which were played, for an average of 54.94 goals per game, the second biggest number in the history after last season’s 55.27 goals per game scored in the European top competition.
Slovenian right back Ana Gros was the top scorer of the competition with 87 goals in 13 games, followed closely by Romanian left back Cristina Neagu with 76 goals in 9 games, and Croatian back Dejana Milosavljevic, who scored 75 times in 11 games.
No player has scored at a higher rate than Neagu, however, with CSM’s stalwart having scored 8.44 goals per game, as Milosavljevic (6.8 goals per game) and Gros (6.6 goals per game) follow her closely.
Neagu, the four-time IHF World Player of the Year and MVP of the 2015 IHF Women’s World Championship, can win her third top scorer title in the DELO EHF Champions League, after the ones secured in the 2014/15 and 2017/18 seasons.
Round of 16 schedule in the DELO EHF Champions League
M1: Podravka Vegeta vs Rostov-Don
M2: BV Borussia 09 Dortmund vs Metz Handball
M3: SCM Ramnicu Valcea vs CSM Bucuresti
M4: Buducnost vs FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria
M5: Vipers Kristiansand vs Odense Handbold
M6: Team Esbjerg vs Brest Bretagne Handball
M7: RK Krim Mercator vs CSKA Moscow
M8: SG BBM Bietigheim vs Györi Audi ETO KC
Quarter-final schedule of the DELO EHF Champions League
Winner M4 vs Winner M8
Winner M7 vs Winner M3
Winner M5 vs Winner M1
Winner M6 vs Winner M2
Click here for more information on the DELO EHF Champions League.
PHOTO: Peter Szalmas/Győri Audi ETO KC