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BHL Newsletter: European misery for all teams except Šviesa
It was definitely not a good week for BHL teams in Europe – five crashed out of EHF Cup or EHF Challenge Cup, plus Cocks Riihimäki suffered another bitter one-goal defeat in the EHF Champions League. The only happy team after last week is VHC Šviesa Vilnius, although it was a win-win situation, as they defeated fellow BHL-side Granitas-Karys Kaunas.
Two Lithuanian teams drawn together in the EHF Challenge Cup played both legs over one weekend. On Saturday, Šviesa took a two-goal advantage with a 24:22 (12:11) win in Kaunas. Karolis Antanavičius scored 9 goals for the winners, while Modestas Štarolis had one more for Granitas-Karys.
The next day, the margins were bigger, as Šviesa took a 33:26 (15:10) win at home and advanced to third qualifying round, where they will play Norwegian side Bodø HK. On Sunday, Antanavičius was again on fire and the 20-year-old left-back scored 7 goals, as did his team-mate Valdas Drabavičius and Paulius Šarkauskas for the opponents.
One-goal win in domestic, one-goal defeat in Champions League for Cocks
Cocks was once again close to a historical Champions League win, leading Norwegian champion Elverum Handball by three goals in the second half, but losing out 28:27 (15:14) in the end. Cocks missed several key figures as Yury Lukyanchuk, Teemu Tamminen, Andre Udd and Theo Westerlund were all absent.
Nico Rönnberg scored seven and Davor Basaric six goals for the BHL title-holder. Cocks have now two draws and two one-goal defeats from five matches in the competition. In the domestic league, the Finnish champions managed to take a 29:28 (13:16) win over BK-46 Karjaa after Basaric scored a winning goal with nine seconds left on the clock.
ZTR Zaporozhye took part in the second strongest European competition and had a three-goal deficit travelling to Switzerland to play in the EHF Cup. However, ZTR lost second time to Kadetten Schaffhausen, this time by 38:33 (19:14) and were eliminated. Maksym Karamyshev was the best Ukrainian with 7 goals.
SKA and Celtnieks recorded a victory, but were eliminated
Also in EHF Cup, SKA Minsk hosted FC Porto, who had won the first game in Portugal by five goals. The Belarussians struggled in the opening half, but with excellent saves by Ivan Moroz, managed to take a 17:14 lead in the second and got some hope. It did not materialise and even as SKA won the match by 25:24 (14:14), they were out. Mikalai Aliokhin and Dzmitry Nikulenkau scored 6 goals for SKA.
"Clearly, we are not satisfied," said SKA head coach Ihar Papruha to club website. "We wanted to qualify, but the poor game in Porto and all the stupid mistakes we made there, cost us the tie. On Saturday, the boys fought well, we had our chances, but in the end we could not overcome the deficit."
In the EHF Challenge Cup, Celtnieks Riga played both matches at home against Israeli side Holon Yuvalim HC and recorded an excellent win on Saturday. Latvians came from behind to win 33:31 (15:18), with their Russian newcomer Vladislav Koshman in key role. After scoring just one in the lost opening half, Koshman added seven goals in the second.
The next day, Koshman scored seven goals again, but Celtnieks lost 29:25 (17:13) and were eliminated by just two goals, 50:48. Few days earlier, Celtnieks had a domestic league match, where they took a comfortable 38:26 (24:14) win over MSG/LAT-Hertz with unsurprisingly Koshman again as the top scorer with 10 goals.
HC Tallinn's European debut ended with two defeats
HC Tallinn had as busy week as Celtnieks, playing three games. On Tuesday, the young club recorded an historical win, as they beat Estonian champions and fellow BHL-team Serviti Põlva for the first time ever. Uku-Tanel Laast scored 7 goals in a 27:23 (14:12) success for Tallinn, while Henri Sillaste was on target 6 times for Serviti.
For the weekend, Tallinn travelled to Kosovo for their European debut and played both matches of EHF Challenge Cup qualifying round away. It was tight and Estonians definitely had their chances, but suffered two defeats. Rauno Aus and Markus Viitkar scored five goals in the opening 25:22 (9:11) defeat and Laast recorded 8 goals in the following day, when Tallinn lost 26:25 (15:12).
Outside European competitions, other BHL teams were in action in domestic leagues. In Estonia, two BHL sides met in Viljandi and produced a high-scoring match with HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper defeating Viljandi HC by 34:30 (13:16). Kaspar Lees was on fire, scoring 10 goals with Belarussian Sergei Rodjukov getting 7 for Viljandi.
Latvian champion ZRHK Tenax Dobele recorded an away win over SK Latgols, mainly thanks to Nils Kreicbergs' 10 and Andis Ermanis' 9 goals in a 30:24 (13:12) win. Lithuanian champion Dragunas Klaipeda had a much easier day, when they took a 45:28 (20:17) win over SM Dubysa Šiauliai. Gabrielijus Virbauskas was on target 10 and Karolis Bliuvas 8 times.
On photo: Karolis Antanavičius helped VHC Šviesa Vilnius to qualify in the EHF Challenge Cup, scoring 16 goals over two legs against Granitas-Karys Kaunas. (Photo: VHC Šviesa).