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News / Serviti, Tenax and Šviesa took important wins
Baltic Handball League
Serviti, Tenax and Šviesa took important wins
The Baltic Handball League weekend may have held only six matches, but what tight contests and passionate battles they were! One draw, two one-goal victories and in general, a real fight for points. Perhaps one figure proving the passion is that in just six games the referees awarded 56 two-minute suspensions!
As it stands the biggest winner of the weekend was ZRHK Tenax Dobele, who claimed two wins and secured the place in the quarter-finals. With 15 points, the Latvian champion cannot drop out of top two of Group B, even if VHC Šviesa Tallinn (12) and HC Tallinn (11) have two games in hand.
Sandris Veršakovs: we made improvements in defence
Tenax started at home against Šviesa and inside first ten minutes fell 6:2 behind. Mostly thanks to Egils Politers' goals the Latvians fought back and went even ahead, only to see themselves 12:11 trailing again with four minutes to go. Four unanswered goals gave Tenax a 15:12 half-time lead.
Šviesa fought well, but could not get closer than two goals in the second half and Tenax took a 32:28 victory with Oskars Arajs scoring 11 goals for the winners and Valdas Drabavičius 8 for the losers. On Sunday, Granitas-Karys Kaunas arrived to Dobele and it seemed Tenax was determined to make things clear quickly.
Latvian champions run away with a 5:0 lead, were 16:11 ahead at half-time and in second half extended the gap to seven goals. However, Granitas put up a great fight and drew level 28:28, only for Nikita Pančenko's winning penalty throw to decide the match, when time was already up. Pančenko scored 7 for Tenax and Paulius Šarkauskas 9 for Granitas.
"Very happy with two victories, managed to revenge the defeat and draw from away matches," said Tenax's head coach Sandris Veršakovs. "The way we won against Granitas was first time in my career, but I was satisfied how we played. Especially in defence we managed to make some improvements."
Viljandi HC grabbed their first point of the season
Elsewhere in Group B, Celtnieks Riga kept their hopes of finishing in top two up on Saturday with a 33:30 (15:17) win over Granitas-Karys. Roberts Freibergs scored 8 for the winners, while Modestas Štarolis recorded 11 goals for Lithuanians.
On Sunday, Celtnieks gave away the lead too many times, but most crucially at the end of the match. In 52nd minute, the Latvians took a 24:23 lead, but allowed Šviesa to score six unanswered goals before the final whistle! BHL top scorer Vladislav Koshman recorded 8 for Celtnieks and Karolis Antanavičius was unstoppable with 12 goals for Šviesa.
Saturday also provided an Estonian derby in Viljandi, where the hosts took a 13:9 half-time lead against HC Tallinn and even extended it early in the second half. Viljandi HC had no points this season, but then saw a 19:14 lead turned into a 22:20 for Tallinn by an amazing 8:1 period inside eight minutes.
Suffering from many injury worries, Tallinn was leading 24:22 with three minutes to go. Viljandi pulled back and 16-year-old Mihkel Lõpp equalized for the hosts, thus helping Viljandi to their first point of the season. Playmakers were the best scorers with six goals – Volodymyr Maslak and Uku-Tanel Laast respectively.
Goalkeeping heroics in Dragunas v Serviti
Group A only had one match this weekend, but what a great entertainment it provided to almost 300 supporters in the hall and hundreds watching it online. Without a doubt, the key figures of the match were the two goalkeepers, as Maxym Voliuvach of Dragunas Klaipeda and Eston Varusk of Serviti Põlva producing world-class saves throughout the game.
Draw was on the scoreboard very often, but both teams also had two- and three-goal leads during the match. It was Estonian champion who claimed the important win by 24:23 in the end. Henri Sillaste was the only Serviti player, who Voliuvach had problems with, as the left-winger scored 9 goals. Gabrielijus Virbauskas was Dragunas' best with six goals.
"It was a very tight and very even game. And I believe it was handball on a very high level! Both goalkeepers were excellent, if Varusk's 17 saves is very good, then Voliuvach stopped even more and especially impressing were his 13 saves from one-on-one situations," praised Serviti's head coach Kalmer Musting.
Title-holder Cocks has four away games in ten days
The final weekend of the BHL's regular season takes place on 23-24 February, but this time the three weeks in between will be also covered with games. As title-holder Cocks Riihimäki participated in their inaugural EHF Champions League campaign in autumn-winter, they have many matches to play and will have a cruel schedule for the weeks to come.
"Obviously it will not be easy – travelling to four different countries to play four matches inside just ten days, but in fact we are very grateful to the other BHL teams. They came to our help and postponed the matches, as we had so many Champions League games back in 2018," commented Gintaras Savukynas, head coach of Cocks.
"Now we have to cope with this schedule and make the best of it, although the opposition is very strong. Luckily we have more or less all players fit and ready. In addition, our January-signing Nils Kreicbergs from Tenax has joined the team in a very positive and confident way. It takes some time, but I can see already that he's adapted well," added Savukynas.
On photo: Eston Varusk and Maxym Voliuvach came face-to-face in Dragunas v Serviti match and produced goalkeeping of highest quality. (Photos: Helin Potter).