TALKING POINTS: After a weekend which saw Metz and Vardar book quarter-finals tickets, here are some of the things we learned about the Women’s EHF Champions League
Four things we have learned midway through the main round
After the third weekend of matches in the Women’s EHF Champions League Main Round, Vardar and Metz fans can relax, as their teams have secured quarter-final berths from Group 2.
Podgorica’s Moraca hall will again be fuelled with passion, as Buducnost and FTC are bound to battle it out for an early quarter-final ticket in Round 4.
Meanwhile, a bizarre turn of events shook Group 1, with no less than three teams in contention for the first place, while three will also fight for the last remaining quarter-final spot.
Vardar top Group 2 in a record-breaking fashion
Vardar and Metz showed excellent form in the second part of the season, having already booked their quarter-final tickets by displaying their dominance in Group 2.
In-form Metz took a hard-fought away victory against Thüringer HC (31:29) as Xenia Smiths lead the way with 10 goals.
An eight-goal masterclass from Andrea Penezic helped the impeccable Vardar extend their winning streak to nine-matches, after putting Buducnost to the sword in a Balkan derby.
Having shown no signs of slowing down, the Macedonian powerhouse also broke their previous record (of eight consecutive wins) in the Women’s EHF Champions League.
Vardar top Group 2 with a maximum 14 points, followed by Metz with 10 and FTC with eight.
Group 1 left wide open
All teams are still in contention for the quarter-finals in the Group 1, after the fascinating clashes CSM vs Rostov and Nykøbing vs Midtjylland both ended in a draw.
CSM faltered as their star Cristina Neagu struggled with 36 per cent shooting efficiency. Neither side took command of the low-scoring affair, allowing Györ to leapfrog the Russian side by one point and climb into second place.
The Hungarian side was determined to overcome Nora Mørk’s absence, having steamrolled over Krim with double digits - 32:21. The dominant win keeps them in contention for the top spot in Group 1, with 10 points in the bag – trailing only one point behind the group leaders CSM.
Meanwhile, Nykøbing, Krim and Midtjylland, with five, four and three points, respectively, will decide on the last remaining quarter-final berth from Group 1.
Two faces of Buducnost
Having surprised many with their maturity and attitude, the youthful Buducnost are full of contrasts this season.
The Podgorica-based team were triumphant in all four of their home games so far. However, on the flip side, they have failed to win a single point away from Moraca, enduring a five-match barren run on the road.
Home atmosphere seems to be the key for Buducnost, with this youthful side still looking for ways to break their away curse, following an emphatic 31:24 defeat against Balkan rivals Vardar.
Buducnost will hope to maintain their perfect home record, occupying the highly sought-after fourth place in Group 2 with six points – two behind third-placed FTC, whom they will host in the upcoming round.
Midtjylland end losing streak as Bietigheim hit new low
The winless curse has yet not been lifted from Bietigheim. Having recorded their last victory on 12 November, the Germans are still without a point won after three matches in the main round, following a four-match losing streak.
Bietigheim, as well as their German rivals Thüringer HC dwell at the bottom of Group 2, with two points each, and only an outside chance of reaching the quarter finals.
Having put a stop to their own four-match losing streak, Midtjylland managed to turn their fortunes around. The Danes took their first main round point against domestic rivals Nykøbing (21:21) on Sunday.
Midtjylland have undone their promising start to the season, finding themselves bottom of Group 1, going five matches without a win in the competition.
However, the hard-fought point is a lifeline for their quarter-final chances, with three matches still to play in the main round.
TEXT: Nemanja Savic / cor
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