The German women's handball champions of Borussia Dortmund had to accept their first defeat on Matchday 4 of the EHF Champions League. On Sunday afternoon, they lost 22-25 (11-12) to joint favourites for the trophy, CSM Bucharest.
Let's make one thing clear in advance: Andre Fuhr's team put in a great, fighting performance. The conditions were far from ideal, after Japanese international Haruna Sasaki had been announced as the latest long-term injury victim (surgery on the intervertebral disc) in the run-up to the match. "We're right on the limit. The team are down to the bare bones now," the coach said repeatedly. On the other hand, Mia Zschocke and Fatos Kücükyildiz returned to the team after injuries and were sent straight out on to the court.
The Romanians were alert from the very start, taking a quick 2-0 lead in the early stages after Zschocke had to sit out a 2-minute suspension and CSM scored the penalty throw in the 4th minute), but Borussia remained strong. And how! Laura van der Heijden scored the first BVB goal on 5 minutes despite her team being a woman down and captain Alina Grijseels gave her team a 3-2 lead with a quick-fire double in the 6th and 7th minute. However, it would turn out to be the only time they led in the match. After a quarter of an hour, Fuhr took a first time-out, complaining of "too much playing sideways" with the score at 4-7 and demanded "more courage" and more direct attacks on the opposition goal. Because while they were defending very well and looking solid – helped in no small part by nine (!) saves from Yara ten Holte in the first half – they had only conceded eight goals in the first twenty minutes, the Black and Yellows had wasted too many chances up front.
A penalty save by ten Holte from four-time World Handballer of the Year, Cristina Neagu, on 19 minutes heralded the start of a very strong period for the Dortmund ladies. Despite Amelie Berger's miss with the Romanian team's net left empty after an intercepted attack, Alina Grijseels, the leading scorer in the Champions League, brought her team back to within two goals with her fifth goal of this match in the 25th minute (8-10). Merel Freriks converted a quick counter-attack on 26 minutes and Jennifer Gutiérrez Bermejo drew BVB level at 11-11 just 33 seconds before the end of the first half. The two sides headed into the break at 11-12
At the start of the second half, Mia Zschocke equalised, making it 12-12. But after that, Bucharest poured on the pressure and eased out to a 15-12 lead. The BVB shortcoming remained their failure to convert their chances in front of the opposition goal. After a second blow to the face, ten Holte had to be treated on 27 minutes, but was able to continue and had an outstanding game, making 15 saves by the end of the match.
Borussia Dortmund gave it all they had to equalise five times in a row at 15-15 (Rönning), 16-16 (Zschocke), 17-17 (Gutierrez), 18-18 (Berger) and 19-19 (Zschocke with her fifth goal). "Now's our time! Anything is possible!" Fuhr shouted to his team, but Bucharest again went three goals clear in the final stages (19-22). Yet the BVB women showed great heart: two and a half minutes before the final whistle, van der Heijden reduced the arrears to 22-23. A point seemed possible again. The fans couldn't stay in their seats anymore. But then BVB lost patience in the decisive attack, and Bucharest finished the counter-attack to make it 22-24. In the end, all the women in Black and Yellow got out of the game was the prolonged, rapturous applause for a good, battling performance.