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News / Cocks finally beaten – by ZTR and SKA!

Baltic Handball League

2018.12.10 15:12

Cocks finally beaten – by ZTR and SKA!

The final weekend of 2018 in Baltic Handball League offered some fascinating and surprising matches. Biggest winners of the weekend were SKA Minsk, ZTR Zaporozhye and HC Tallinn, claiming two wins each. The biggest shock was the end to Cocks Riihimäki's 41-game winning run – after going unbeaten for 3,5 years, the title-holder suffered two defeats in two days!

Coming off of a successful EHF Champions League debut campaign and Finnish Cup win, it was certainly a surprise that Cocks failed to add a single point to their tally in Group A. But both ZTR and SKA were very motivated against the winner of last three seasons, as Cocks was clearly suffering from some physical and mental fatigue.

Title-holders missed Rönnberg and Novoselov on Sunday

It went wrong already at the start of Saturday's match, as ZTR rushed to a 5:1 lead. Cocks fought back and in the first minutes of the second half went ahead 16:15 with goals from Yury Lukyanchuk and Nico Rönnberg. The latter – Champions League top scorer – played only a marginal part against ZTR and rested his shoulder on Sunday.

ZTR played an excellent 10-minute spell in the second half, winning it by 6:0 and running away with a 28:22 win. Maksym Karamyshev and Oleksii Ganchev both scored 8 goals, while Teemu Tamminen was Cocks' best with 9. On following day, Cocks was on top for most of the first half, as Giedrius Morkunas made some crucial saves in goal.

But from 10:8 lead, Cocks started to suffer with SKA winning the first half 15:13, extending the lead to seven goals in the second and eventually winning 31:28. Yulian Hiryk scored 7 goals for the winners, while Davor Basaric recorded 9 for Cocks.

"It was clear that our form dropped after the Champions League matches. It's not easy to find motivation after such a hard campaign and tiredness also showed. Missing Rönnberg and losing Andrei Novoselov on Saturday to an ankle injury did obviously not help us either," commented Gintaras Savukynas, Cocks' head coach.

SKA started the weekend with a win in Kehra

SKA had crossed the Finnish Bay after a win on Saturday in Estonia, where they beat HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper 28:24 (17:13). Estonian league leader is still without points in this season's BHL, but made SKA fight hard for the win. Andrei Vakhnovich was in form against his fellow Belarussians, scoring 8 goals for Kehra, as Mikalai Aliokhin was SKA's best with 6.

On Sunday, Kehra was no match for Group A leaders ZTR. A rapid start from Ukrainians saw them take a 4:0 lead. Even with Vakhnovich scoring first four goals for the hosts and making the scoreline 6:4, the visitors proved to be far stronger. ZTR took a clear 31:19 (15:9) win, as Vakhnovich had 6 and ZTR's Andrii Akimenko 5 goals to their name.

"If on Saturday we had a good match against SKA, then the next day we were terrible," admitted Kehra's head coach Kaupo Liiva. "15 missed passes in a game is unacceptable, as it usually results in 15 fast breaks to the opponent. ZTR is a very good team and has kept the same squad together for some years, so their team play is excellent."

In the remaining Group A match, Lithuanian champion beat Estonian champion, as Dragunas Klaipeda defeated Serviti Põlva 26:24 (12:10). 6:4 lead was the best Serviti could do and after that it was a tight match, but Dragunas always in control. Six goals were scored by Karolis Bliuvas for the winners and Hendrik Varul for the losers.

HC Tallinn moves on top of Group B

Main news from Group B is that we have a new leader. Starting with three wins from three games, VHC Šviesa Vilnius travelled to Estonia and on Saturday, suffered the first defeat of the season in the hands of HC Tallinn. Midway through the first half, newly crowned Estonian cup-winners took the lead and eventually a 27:22 (14:11) win. Uku-Tanel Laast and Markus Viitkar scored 5 for Tallinn and Tomas Bernatavičius hit 6 for Šviesa.

On the following day, Tallinn welcomed another team from Lithuania, current domestic league leaders Granitas-Karys Kaunas and recorded their fourth straight win with 26:20 (13:11). This time it was Sander Sven Annula's turn to shine, as the left-back scored 8 goals and excellent goalkeeping and defence keeping Granitas' best scorers at four goals.

"We have hit quite good form, I have to admit," commented Tallinn's head coach Jüri Lepp. "We overcame the tiredness after the cup weekend and obviously the motivation is high inside the team. It seems our opponents do not expect the fast handball we are trying to produce."

Lepp was especially happy with defence. "Our goalkeeper Armis Priskus was excellent on both days. The defence and subsequently the fast breaks work really well and these are the main reasons for winning streak. However nice the top position in the table feels, we are only halfway through the regular season," cautioned Lepp.

Lithuanian clubs took victories in Viljandi

The Lithuanian teams did not however leave Estonia without a win, as both travelled to Viljandi and collected three points. Granitas-Karys beat Viljandi HC 28:24 (17:11) and Šviesa took a 29:20 (14:11) win. On both days winning team's best scorer recorded 9 goals –Karolis Grigas for Granitas and Valdas Drabavičius for Šviesa. The latter also climbed up to first place in the top scorers' list with 40 goals.

Viljandi is still without points in Group B, but the head coach Marko Koks is not surprised. "We knew it would be a difficult season for us. So many players left and the youngsters we have brought in are not ready for such level. Although the young players are performing well, we cannot expect 60-minute stability from 15-year-old boys," commented Koks.

"We had our chances on both days. On Saturday, we had problems converting our chances, as Granitas' goalkeeper Lukas Gurskis had a great day. On Sunday, we were in the game until 40th minute, but then fell apart. Injuries to Mikk Varik and Andrey Hapal did not help, especially with the small squad we are having now," added Koks.

On Saturday, we also had a Latvian-derby with Celtnieks Riga hosting ZRHK Tenax Dobele and it was a tight match as usually between these sides. Tenax run away with 8:3 lead, but Celtnieks fought back to a draw and half-time Tenax's lead was minimal – 15:14.

In the 45th minute Guntars Lejnieks put Celtnieks 21:20 ahead, but then Tenax produced a 7:1 spell and took the win by 30:28. Vladislav Koshman was on target 10 times for the hosts with Nils Kreicbergs scoring 7 goals for Tenax.

On photo: Maksym Karamyshev scored 8 goals and helped ZTR Zaporozhye to end Cocks Riihimäki's 41-game winning run. (Photo: Helin Potter).