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News / Title-holder returns with just a point from their trip to the East

Baltic Handball League

2019.02.18 15:59

Title-holder returns with just a point from their trip to the East

Two postponed matches were played last week in Baltic Handball League, as Cocks Riihimäki visited the Eastern-most clubs of the BHL. The title-holder returns with just a point, having lost to SKA Minsk and playing a draw against ZTR Zaporozhye.

Having already lost three three matches this season after going three seasons without a defeat, Cocks desperately needed points to close the gap to the top teams in Group A. But on Friday, the Finns suffered a 22:26 (11:15) defeat in the hands of SKA and two days later throw away a healthy lead to play a 26:26 (12:16) draw against ZTR.

SKA's Ihar Papruha: very happy how we defended

In Minsk, the start of the match was all about defence, as the first goal was scored by Mikita Vailupau from a penalty throw when 5:40 already played and first field goal took another minute to be recorded by Teemu Tamminen. It was an even match until 15th minute, when the hosts started to slip away and led at half-time by 15:11.

Cocks was unable to match SKA's attacking power in the second half and struggled to beat Aliaksei Kishou in goal. Belarussians never allowed Cocks to come closer than three goals and eventually took an important 26:22 win. Vailupau scored 7 goals for the winning and Tamminen 8 for the losing side. The match drew an impressive crowd of 865 spectators in the Uruchye Sports Palace.

"I am very happy how we performed in defence," commented the head coach of SKA, Ihar Papruha. "Cocks obviously has had a drop in form after Champions League campaign, but they will come back strongly for the Final Four. For us it was a very important win and now the first place in group will be decided in our home match against ZTR."

On Sunday, 1200 spectators gathered in Zaporozhye's Sports Palace as Cocks made a much better start taking a 4:1 lead, only to see ZTR go ahead 8:7 in 13th minute. The rest of the first half belonged to Cocks and they took a 16:12 half-time lead. ZTR came out fighting from the dressing room and soon cut the deficit to minimum.

However, with last ten minutes starting, Cocks still had a 24:21 lead. Andrii Akimenko now took the responsibility with substitute Ievgen Konstantinov scoring twice and suddenly ZTR had the lead 26:25. Vitalie Nenita equalized and teams had to settle with a point. Akimenko recorded 10 and Tamminen 7 goals as the best scorers.

Tight league matches for BHL clubs in Latvia and Lithuania

Domestic competitions for BHL clubs are also in full swing with regular seasons ending in Estonia, Finland and Belarus. Cocks finished the main round on top, while SKA took a clear 34:18 win (Yulyan Hiryk 10 goals) just one day after beating Cocks. SKA finished with 29 points and in second place behind HC Meshkov Brest, who is unbeaten with 40 points.

In Estonia, all BHL sides finished the regular season in style taking victories in the final round. HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper collected 25, Serviti Põlva 23 and HC Tallinn 22 points. Viljandi HC failed to finish in top four and will play the next stage in the second quartet, from where two best will qualify for the quarter-finals.

Top of the table in Lithuanian league could not be more fascinating with three BHL clubs forming the top three, separated by just one point. VHC Šviesa Vilnius and Dragunas Klaipeda have 22 points and Granitas-Karys Kaunas 21, but Šviesa has played one game more.

Last week it was not easy for BHL teams, as Šviesa beat RK Kauno ažuolas-KTU 28:27 (Karolis Antanavičius 11) and Dragunas was 26:25 (three players 4 goals) better of Varsa-Stronglasas Alytus. In addition, Šviesa's excellent European campaign came to an end. They lost the second leg in the EHF Challenge Cup to RK Borac Banja Luka 22:23 (Valdas Drabavičius 8) and were eliminated.

Latvian league is already in second stage of the competition and it was a BHL-derby on Wednesday with ZRHK Tenax Dobele and Celtnieks Riga playing a 25:25 draw (Nikita Pančenko, Nils Mikelsons, Egils Politers 5 – Vladislav Koshman 7). Tenax played another draw on Saturday, 28:28 (Andis Ermanis 6) against SK Latgols Ludza. Both BHL teams have 11 points after five matches.

On photo: Mikita Vailupau (left) and Teemu Tamminen were the best scorers when SKA Minsk beat Cocks Riihimäki. (Photo: Helin Potter).