Trieste confirmed their spot in the Final Four with a powerful 14-10 home victory against BVSC. The Italians were the only team to book their ticket to the next round ahead of the three-month break due to the European and World Championships. Elsewhere, Glyfada were eliminated after losing by a single goal for the third successive game.
Group A: Lille (FRA) v Glyfada (GRE) 9-8, De Zaan (NED) v Padova (ITA) 9-10
Standings: 1. Lille (9pts) 2. Padova (9pts) 3. De Zaan (6pts) 4. Glyfada (0pts)
Glyfada arrived in northern France looking for their first points of the campaign, but again they fell agonisingly short, losing a thrilling encounter with Lille 9-8.
It was the Greeks’ third successive defeat by a solitary goal, after losses at home to De Zaan (8-9) and at Padova (8-7), so once more they travelled home with nothing to show.
On Saturday lunchtime, Lille took an early lead and were 2-1 ahead after the first, then 4-2 at the turnaround.
When Veronika Kordonskaia fired in for the hosts to stretch the lead to three (5-2) in the third, it looked like the game was getting away from the visitors.
Glyfada were struggling to find a way through the home defence, but a penalty foul gifted them the chance to pull one back with 2.42 remaining in the quarter.
Eleftheria Fountotou took full advantage and her penalty goal sparked a stunning two-minute 3-0 rush that drew Glyfada level at 5-5.
There was still time for two more goals, one for either side, to lock the scores at 6-6 going into the final eight minutes.
Lille were stunned, but they regrouped, stepped up a gear and replied with a 3-0 rush of their own.
At 9-6, with 4.51 left to play, a home win looked certain, however Glyfada hit back once more with two goals, including Fountotou’s fourth of the game, to make it 9-8 and set up a nervy last two minutes.
Lille managed to hold out for the victory but they left the pool knowing they had been in a real fight.
In Group A’s other game, Padova travelled to De Zaan, where another epic clash played out.
On day one, Padova narrowly beat De Zaan at home 13-12, so a second close encounter was always on the cards for Saturday night’s reverse fixture.
Both sides traded blows throughout a thrilling first half that saw the scores locked at 3-3 at the end of the first, then 7-7 at the turnaround.
The hosts were digging deep and edged in front (9-8) in the third, but the visitors silenced the home crowd with two late goals, including the winner with just six seconds remaining.
It was heartbreak for De Zaan, and especially captain Lieke Rogge, who delivered a fantastic individual performance, top scoring with five, and didn’t deserve to be on the losing side.
Lille and Padova now occupy the two qualification places in Group A ahead of the three-month break, but De Zaan will still fancy their chances of ousting one of them when hostilities resume in March.
Group B: Trieste (ITA) v BVSC (HUN) 14-10, Grand Nancy (FRA) v Spandau (GER) 7-11
Standings: 1. Trieste (12pts) 2. BVSC (6pts) 3. Spandau (6pts) 4. Grand Nancy (0pts)
Trieste became the first team to qualify for the Final Four with a comprehensive 14-10 victory at home against BVSC.
Arianna Gragnolati and Giusy Citino hit four goals each for the hosts in a game the Hungarians were always chasing.
After Trieste went 4-1 ahead at the end of the first, a quiet second (1-1) followed, before the Italians built up a 10-5 advantage in the third.
BVSC edged an entertaining final quarter (4-5), but it wasn’t enough to trouble Trieste, who finished up comfortable winners.
A fourth successive victory saw the hosts tighten their grip on the top spot in Group B and cement their place in the next round with two games to spare.
Elsewhere in Group B, Spandau beat Grand Nancy on Sunday in France to move level on points with second-placed BVSC.
The Germans crushed the French side at home on day one 14-4 and had no real trouble completing the double over their rivals.
Spandau took a 2-3 lead by the end of the first, and extended the advantage to 3-6 at the turnaround.
Grand Nancy continued to fight, but the visitors were able to stretch their lead to four (4-8) in the third and ran out comfortable 7-11 winners to keep the French side firmly rooted to the bottom of the table.
Next up for Spandau after the break is a crucial showdown in Berlin with BVSC.
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