Flawless defence leads Györ to third consecutive final
Three-time Women’s EHF Champions League winners Györi Audi ETO KC became the first finalists of the 2017/18 season after a deserved semi-final victory against CSM Bucuresti. The Hungarian side kept the 2016 out of the goal for the first 10 minutes of the match, and the Romanian club proved unable to recover from their slow start.
The semi-final victory means Györ have the chance to become the first team to reclaim a trophy won at the Women’s EHF FINAL4, and takes them to their fourth trophy match in five years.
• Györ qualify for fourth final in five years, and have the chance to reclaim their 2017 title
• The all-time top scorer at the event, CSM left back Cristina Neagu, passes the 50-goal mark at EHF FINAL4s
• Neagu’s six goals also take her to first place on the 2017/18 top-scorer list, with a total of 107 after the semi-final
CSM Bucuresti (ROU) vs Györi Audi ETO KC (HUN) 20:26 (10:12)
“We will try our best to make them struggle a little with their rhythm.” These were the words of Györ centre back Stine Oftedal the day before the FINAL4 threw off in Papp Laszlo Budapest Sportarena – and that was the theme of the opening to the first semi-final.
From the first attack it was clear Bucharest were pushed out of their comfort zone by Györ’s faultless defence, led by the outstanding combination of Eduarda Amorim and Yvette Broch in the middle. It took the 2016 winners more than 10 minutes to score their first goal, which came from Champions League 2017/18 All-star left back Cristina Neagu, at which point Györ had created an advantage that CSM would find difficult to shake (1:3).
"We knew that if we were to succeed in this match we needed to have a good defence, strong defence together with the goalkeeper, so we knew what was the key and we succeeded. We stayed calm, focused, no matter if it was a good moment or a bad moment for us. We knew what we had to do and I’m really happy," said Györ goalkeeper Kari Aalvik Grimsbø.
A period in which Györ changed from their flexible 6-0 to a more open 3-2-1 defensive system allowed Neagu and Isabelle Gullden to play to line player Oana Manea for some easy six-metre goals, restoring confidence as they began to find their rhythm in attack. Still, Györ were able to maintain their two-goal advantage until the end of the first half heavily supported by some brilliant goals of Anita Görbicz.
Helped by a superb performance from goalkeeper Jelena Grubisic, CSM looked much more threatening in the second period. Though they played the same 6-0 system, their defence was more effective, forcing Györ to play long attacks while Grubisic tidied up many clear opportunities the Hungarian outfit created.
When Neagu scored her fifth goal in the 40th minute to take first position on the season’s top scorer list, she brought her team within one. Amanda Kurtovic was the next on the score board, and for the first time in the match, the score was level (16:16).
But the reprieve for CSM was short-lived. Two quick goals took Györ in front once more, and after the three-time champions’ goalkeeper Grimsbø made some crucial saves around the 50-minute mark, Györ created a clearer lead at 20:16 with nine minutes remaining.
"Over 60 minutes it was not good enough. I thought when it was 16 all and [we had] the ball, we would play with confidence, but also in that period Kari Grimsbo did three, four really good saves," said CSM coach Per Johansson. "We were too much up and down."
As the final buzzer drew closer, CSM started to play seven-against-six, taking out Grubisic in favour of an additional attacker – but they were punished for the attempt when Amorim scored a long-range shot in the 57th that took them to a 24:18 advantage and sealed the win.Author: Courtney Gahan / br