Rostov hope for first FINAL4 victory
It is the known to be the most difficult match in handball: the battle for the bronze. Recovering from the disappointment of a semi-final loss in less than 24 hours to fight for a last chance at a medal is a great test of mental strength – and it is CSM Bucuresti and Rostov-Don that find themselves with this difficult task in their last match of the Women’s EHF Champions League 2017/18 on Sunday.
- 2016 champions Bucharest and FINAL4 debutants Rostov take the court to fight for the bronze medal
- Four-time All-star left back Cristina Neagu looks on her way to finishing as the top scorer of the 2017/18 season, in first position with 107 goals and no close competitor
- Rostov have already achieved their best Champions League result by making it to the FINAL4; if Bucharest lose, it will be the first time they finish outside the medals
3/4 PLACEMENT MATCH
CSM Bucuresti (ROU) vs Rostov-Don (RUS)
Sunday 13 May, 15:15 local time, live on ehfTV.com
CSM Bucuresti and Rostov-Don are both shaken after their semi-finals against Györi Audi ETO KC and HC Vardar, but must recover quickly if they hope to end their season on a high. Both teams faced opponents that restricted some of their greatest strengths, with Bucharest’s tactical centre back Isabelle Gullden completely shut down by Györ’s defence, while Rostov were unable to score easy counter-attack goals against a quickly retreating Vardar.
Sunday’s bronze-medal match will therefore see two sides hoping to re-find their own game and take control of their fate in a way they could not in the semi-finals. It will be the last game with Rostov for coach Frederic Bougeant, who will return to his native France to be replaced by current Györ coach Ambros Martin for next season.
It is also the final match with her current club for CSM’s FINAL4 2016 hero, Isabelle Gullden, who holds the record for most goals scored in a FINAL4 match after her incredible 15-goal performance in the final two years ago.
The history between the sides stands in Bucharest’s favour, as they have beaten Rostov four times, drawn once and lost just one match to the Russian team. However, as the draw and the one-goal loss were both in 2018, the edge may just be with Rostov – if they can regain the pre-FINAL4 form that saw them unbeaten for the first four months of the year. What might hamper their ambitions in the Champions League season's farewell match is apparently a serious foot injury of their Brazilian playmaker Ana Paula Rodriguez, who will not be able to play in the final.
“We know this team and they know us as well. It will not be easier than today’s game. We need to find some power and try to win, because it is really important for us,” said Rostov’s Anna Vyakhireva after the semi-final defeat.
“We should improve in everything! Tomorrow we need to play our game and give our best against a strong team.”
No matter the final score, Cristina Neagu will not leave the tournament empty-handed as CSM's left back star, currently at 107 goals, is bound to claim this season's top scorer award.
Author: Courtney Gahan / br