05 Jun. 2023
Vipers Kristiansand became only the second team in the history of the EHF Champions League Women to secure three consecutive titles after the Norwegian side clinched a 28:24 win in the last act of the EHF FINAL4 on Sunday evening in a packed MVM Dome in Budapest.
20,022 fans came to the two days business end of the European top club competition, where Vipers wrote history, following in Györi Audi ETO KC's footsteps as the only two sides to secure a three-peat in the EHF Champions League Women.
Coming in as favourites to Budapest, after they had only conceded two losses in the first 16 games of the season, Vipers had to overcome a sturdy challenge from Györi Audi ETO KC in the semi-final.
The reigning champions led by as many as seven goals throughout the game, but an 11-goal performance from centre back Stine Bredal Oftedal helped Györ back into the game, only for Vipers to remain calm in the crunch minutes of the match to seal a 37:35 win.
In the second semi-final, fan favourites FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria produced an immense comeback to secure their first-ever final berth in the EHF Champions League Women since the 2001/02 season, shocking Team Esbjerg with a 29:28 win.
FTC, who had previously lost seven games on their way to the EHF FINAL4, produced a surprising comeback in the quarter-finals against Metz Handball, erasing a six-goal loss in the first leg, came back from five goals down to secure the win with three seconds left, courtesy of a goal from left back Emily Bölk.
However, the comeback queens were unable to shock Vipers, who took an early 9:4 lead in the final and led by as many as eight goals during the second half, on their way to a credible 28:24 win, which sent their fans and players alike into raptures.
With six goals in the final and five goals in the semi-final, right back Anna Vyakhireva was named the MVP of the EHF FINAL4, adding to her collection of individual awards, which started with an MVP award at the 2012 IHF Women's Youth World Championship and also saw the right back take the MVP award at the Rio 2016 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Legendary goalkeeper Katrine Lunde became the first player in history to secure the EHF Champions League Women's title seven times, while Czech right wing Jana Knedlíková became the first player in history to secure the trophy six times in a row.
Györi Audi ETO KC finished on the third place in the EHF FINAL4 for the second time in a row with a 29:28 win over Team Esbjerg, as the Danish side lost their fourth match in a row in Budapest, finishing on the fourth place for the second consecutive time.
However, Esbjerg's left back Henny Reistad, the All-star left back at the 2021 IHF Women's World Championship, was the top goal scorer of the competition with 142 goals, while also becoming the all-time top goal scorer at the EHF FINAL4 with 60 goals, beating the previous record held by former Györ players Nycke Groot and Anita Görbicz.
Photo: European Handball Federation / Kolektiff images