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News / Šviesa and SKA the biggest winners of the weekend
Baltic Handball League
Šviesa and SKA the biggest winners of the weekend
Ten games over three days delivered some fascinating matches in Baltic Handball League. Eight teams collected at least one point with VHC Šviesa Vilnius and SKA Minsk the biggest winners of the weekend, taking two wins out of two. ZTR Zaporozhye also claimed four points, but lost their third game.
In the top division or Group A all five matches included either SKA or ZTR and the most Eastern partners of BHL almost had full success over the three days. SKA had started the BHL season with an away defeat in the hands of ZTR, but moved to winning ways in Klaipeda and Põlva.
SKA Minsk happy with victories and the decision to have a rest day
On Friday, three-time Baltic league champions were made to fight hard against Dragunas. Lithuanian champion took 5:1 and 11:7 leads in the first half, but an amazing 8-minute spell with Aliaksei Ushal and Uladzislau Kryvenka shining helped SKA to half-time lead 14:13. Dragunas was not done, they moved in front again, leading 20:18 in the 47th minute.
But once more, Ihar Papruha's men knew how to finish strongly – after a 23:23 draw with seven minutes remaining, SKA scored four unanswered goals and won 27:23. Ivan Brouka scored seven goals for SKA, while Karolis Stropus recorded one more for Dragunas.
On Sunday, SKA was in Põlva, playing Serviti with whom both last season's matches had ended in a draw. Estonians also put up a good fight, but SKA took their second win by 31:25 (17:11). Five goals was the maximum one player scored – Brouka, Dzmitry Khmialkou and Aliaksei Khadkevich for SKA and 18-year-old talent Alfred Timmo for Serviti.
"We are very happy with the wins, but also with the handball we produced," said team manager of SKA, Oleg Lebedev. "We also feel we made the right decision to play on Friday and Sunday. It is more expensive, but the 9-hour drive from Klaipeda to Põlva is very hard and the extra day in between matches was useful."
SKA missed their playmaker Dzmitry Nikulenkau against Dragunas and it caused problems. "We had some issues with organisation of the game because of Dzmitry's illness, especially at the start, but managed to get through. Our better level of physical form showed in both games and I believe we deserved the victories," added Lebedev.
Dragunas stopped ZTR's winning run
ZTR Zaporozhye started their long and hard trip of three matches in three days in style. They first beat HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper 33:22 (14:10) with Maksym Karamyshev scoring eight goals, while Dmytro Yankovskiy enjoying himself with seven goals against his compatriots.
Day later, ZTR were too strong for Serviti and recorded their second win by 28:19 (14:10). Karamyshev, Oleksandr Tilte and Dmytro Ilchenko for ZTR and Raiko Rudissaar for Serviti all scored five goals. But ZTR's winning train was put to a stop on Sunday in Klaipeda. Dragunas was leading from the start and not once allowed their tired visitors in front.
ZTR fought hard and in the 46th minute did manage to get a 20:20 draw to the scoreboard. However, with a great support from the home fans and especially with fantastic saves by Maxym Voliuvach – Ukrainian goalkeeper playing against his compatriots – it was Dragunas who took a 29:25 (14:12) win! Modestas Vaitekunas scored six goals for the winners and Tilte seven for ZTR.
"For the first time this season I am happy how our team played," commented Arturas Juškenas, the head coach of Dragunas. "I believe we should have at least got a draw against SKA, but the second match was very good. Players had good fighting spirit and produced excellent handball at times."
Juškenas also praised his goalkeeper Voliuvach. "Maxym had a great game. He comes from Zaporozhye and I used to coach ZTR, so I guess many of us had a special motivation for this match. Of course ZTR played their third match in three days, plus had exhaustive travelling schedule, so probably this helped us a little bit," added Juškenas.
Šviesa moved to top spot in Group B
If Group A produced some tight encounters, then there was even more exciting matches in Group B. Two Latvian teams visited their bitter rivals from neighbouring Lithuania and none of the four teams were left without points. But it was VHC Šviesa Vilnius, who came out as the biggest winner and remains the only unbeaten team in very even Group B.
Šviesa has an EHF Challenge Cup match this weekend against Bodø HK of Norway and they enjoyed the best possible preparation. Lying only third in Lithuanian league, Šviesa seems to step up when it comes to international matches. On Saturday, Lithuanians came from behind in the first half and defeated Celtnieks Riga 32:29 (17:15) with Karolis Antanavičius scoring nine for the winners and Vladislav Koshman ten for Latvians.
The day later, Šviesa again struggled at first, were behind 15:16 against ZRHK Tenax Dobele, but improved in the second half against tiring Latvian champion. Šviesa took a 36:30 (17:16) win and moved top of the Group B. Right-winger Valdas Drabavičius was unstoppable with 13 goals, while Nils Kreicbergs' ten goals did not help Tenax to win.
Granitas-Karys and Tenax shared points in a tight game
Possibly one of the strangest games was played on Saturday in Kaunas, where local Granitas-Karys hosted Tenax. The Latvians took a 5:1 lead, hosts fought back to 10:10, only to fell behind 10:15 and lose the opening half by 13:17. Tenax had already a 22:14 lead in the 36th minute, but the match was far from finished.
Amazing performance from Granitas and especially from Paulius Šarkauskas – scoring season-high 15 goals in the end – brought the game to a great finale. Last ten minutes started with Tenax leading 25:20, but by the final minute Granitas had equalized to 26:26. Kreicbergs put Tenax ahead, but Šarkauskas had one more throw in him and the match ended in a 27:27 draw!
The day later, Granitas-Karys was involved in another tight game against Celtnieks, where the lead changed too many times to count. Lithuanians won the first half 15:13, but fell 18:19 behind by the 40th minute. Granitas fought back to a draw on multiple occasions, but it was Celtnieks who left Kaunas with a 25:23 win. Rihards Leja scored eight goals for Latvians, while Šarkauskas and Tadas Bučinskas had seven to their names for hosts.
Only match out of ten, where the winner was quite clear already early, was the Estonian-derby. HC Tallinn did not leave much chances for Viljandi HC's young team and recorded a comfortable 30:18 (16:7) win at home. Markus Viitkar and Rainer Kelk scored six goals for the winners, while Simon Drõgin and Andrey Khapal four for the losers.
On photo: SKA Minsk can be happy with two wins our of two. (Photo: Helin Potter).