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Baltic Handball League
BHL Newsletter: Three teams advance, two eliminated in Europe
It was a busy week for Baltic Handball League clubs in Europe, as across three continental competitions seven matches were played involving BHL sides. ZTR Zaporozhye, SKA Minsk and ZRHK Tenax Dobele were three teams that advanced to the next round in their respective competitions, while VHC Šviesa Vilnius and HC Tallinn were eliminated.
BHL's only EHF Champions League side, Cocks Riihimäki came close to take first away point(s), but suffered a bitter 30:31 loss against HC Eurofarm Rabotnik from North Macedonia (Teemu Tamminen 6 goals). In midweek, Cocks took a routine domestic league win over Pargas IF by 40:21 (Nico Rönnberg 8).
ZTR scored the winning goal with two seconds left
There was more success in the second strongest competition, EHF Cup. Last season's BHL runner-up ZTR Zaporozhye had lost away by four goals to another North Macedonian club HC Butel Skopje, but put up a fantastic fight at home, emerging as 29:24 winners (Oleksiy Ganchev and Vladyslav Zalevskiy 6), advancing with an aggregate score of 43:42!
In the first half ZTR several times had the necessary five-goal lead and won the half-time 13:9. Butel came back strongly, equalling the score three times during the second half. With final minute starting, ZTR was up 28:23, but Macedonians converted a penalty throw. With two seconds left on the clock, ZTR's 21-year-old centre back Zalevskiy scored the decisive goal.
"I had the ball and with a quick look on the scoreboard I saw, there is no time left. Did not have a moment to think, saw a little opening between defenders' hands and took the shot. It was all automatic, not really a planned throw. I was lucky," commented Zalevskiy to the club's website.
In midweek, ZTR also had a top-clash of the Ukrainian league against the Champions League side HC Motor Zaporozhye, but on this occasion fell short and lost 29:30 (Andrii Akimenko 8).
Three-time BHL winners SKA Minsk also advanced in the EHF Cup after taking a 33:33 draw from visiting Slovenian side RD Riko Ribnica. At home the Belarussian outfit won 28:23 (Dzmitry Nikulenkau 9). In Belarus league, SKA beat SKA-BGUFK Minsk 36:22 (Mikalai Aliokhin and Bogdan Cherkashchenko 5).
Tenax joined Granitas-Karys in the next round of EHF Challenge Cup
Three BHL teams were in action in the EHF Challenge Cup and only ZRHK Tenax Dobele came out victorious. The Latvian champion defeated Luxembourg's HB Dudelange for the second time by 28:24 (Oskars Arajs and Andis Ermanis 5) and advanced with an aggregate score of 55:48.
VHC Šviesa Vilnius had a three-goal advantage from home game against HC Vogošca Poljine Hills, but the team from Bosnia and Herzegovina was stronger at home, winning 31:25 (Arturas Švilpa 8) and moving to next round 55:52 on aggregate.
HC Tallinn played both matches at home against Lithuanian side Kauno Ažuolas-KTU and despite fighting well over the weekend lost the games by two goals – 24:26 (Rauno Aus 5) and 28:30 (Kaspar Lees 10).
Estonian cup-winner had more luck starting their cup defence, beating SK Tapa 31:20 (Marek Karu 6). HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper had to fight hard to beat HC Tallinn 2 in the opening match of the last 16 by 29:25 (Vladislav Naumenko and David Mamporia 7).
Celtnieks Riga had a week with two matches in the Latvian championship and took two victories. They beat HK Ogre 40:22 (Artis Kurmens 9) and HK Vainode 36:23 (Igors Ignatjevs 10).
Two BHL clubs recorded victories in the Lithuanian league, as VHC Šviesa Vilnius defeated SM Dubysa Šiauliai 44:21 (Karolis Antanavičius 11) and Granitas-Karys Kaunas was 34:30 better over Kauno Ažuolas-KTU (Tadas Bučinskas 11).
On photo: Vladyslav Zalevskiy scored the winning goal for ZTR Zaporozhye in the EHF Cup. (Photo: Helin Potter/BHL).