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News / BHL Newsletter: SKA suffers first defeat in the hands of ZTR

Baltic Handball League

2020.01.20 12:12

BHL Newsletter: SKA suffers first defeat in the hands of ZTR

The first Baltic Handball League game of 2020 was played last Friday in Zaporozhye, where hosts ZTR delivered first defeat of the season to SKA Minsk, winning the postponed match 34:32 (17:18). Meanwhile, 23 players from BHL clubs were or are still in action in the final tournament of EHF EURO 2020.

Both teams playing in Zaporozhye were heavily handicapped due to EHF EURO 2020, as ZTR had five players in Ukrainian and SKA six players with the Belarus national team. Though, Ukraine was already eliminated and playmaker Vladyslav Zalevskiy did take part in the BHL match. SKA also missed head coach Ihar Papruha, who has a role with Belarus.

SKA played a better first half, had a three-goal advantage and went to the break in 18:17 lead. In the second half, in very even and fascinating game, the hosts proved to be little stronger and took a 34:32 win, which meant no team in this season's BHL is undefeated. Zalevskiy, Dmytro Artemenko and Olexiy Shcherbak for ZTR and Yulyan Hiryk for SKA all scored seven goals.

At the EHF EURO 2020 three national teams from BHL countries had mixed results. Ukraine and debutants Latvia – who had 11 players from three different BHL clubs – lost all three group games and were eliminated, while Belarus is playing well. Belarus defeated Serbia and Montenegro in the first round and Czech Republic in the main round, where they still have a chance to qualify for the 5/6 placement match.

The national teams of other three countries were also in action in previous weeks. Finland finished third in the 2021 World Championship qualifying group, but then advanced in the EHF EURO 2022. They defeated Georgia 61:45 on aggregate, taking a clear 37:21 home win after playing a 24:24 draw in the opening match. Nico Rönnberg, Teemu Tamminen and Roni Syrjälä from BHL champions Cocks Riihimäki all had key roles in the success.

Lithuania was more successful in their 2021 World Championship qualifying group, winning all three games, including a decisive 25:24 victory over strong Slovakia. The squad included six players from all three BHL's Lithuanian clubs.

Estonia followed Finland's path in the 2022 EHF EURO and secured a place for the main qualification round. Hard-fought 38:33 win away against Luxembourg was followed by much more comfortable 31:20 success in Põlva with local Serviti players Eston Varusk and Henri Sillaste playing major roles.

Two of the domestic championships have already resumed their 2019/20 seasons. In Latvia, ZRHK Tenax Dobele gave some rest to four of their seven players who were involved in the EHF EURO 2020, but managed to take a 33:28 away win over HK Vainode (Maris Veršakovs 9 goals).

Also away, two of Lithuanian BHL clubs took clear victories in the domestic league. VHC Šviesa Vilnius beat HC Utena 49:25 (Laurynas Palevičius 12), while Granitas-Karys Kaunas defeated SC Dubysa Šiauliai 37:21 (Karolis Grigas 10).

On transfer front, one of the most interesting news comes from BHL champion Cocks, who have added Kaj Kekki to their coaching staff. Kekki was in charge of Cocks between 2012-16, guiding them to the club's inaugural BHL title in 2016. After coaching Finland's national team until last summer, he has rejoined the club as assistant coach to Gintaras Savukynas.

On photo: Dmytro Artemenko helped ZTR Zaporozhye with seven goals to a win over SKA Minsk. (Photo: Helin Potter/BHL archive).