The Borussia Dortmund women's handball team can compete with the best teams in Europe, as they demonstrated impressively on Saturday evening despite suffering a 33-29 (16-14) defeat away to CSM Bucuresti.

Had there been slightly fewer mistakes and a better chance conversion ratio, a point against the star-studded ensemble from Bucharest would have been completely deserved in the 11th Champions League outing of the season. But nothing has changed in the Group A table. Borussia Dortmund remain in sixth position and on course to quality for the play-offs. BVB coach André Fuhr commented: "We played well but not to our limit. But everything simply has to be right if you want to beat a top-quality team like CSM. In the end, we were lacking experience and cleverness."

Goalkeeper Yara ten Holte, Frida Rønning, Mia Zschocke and winger Amelie Berger, who was Dortmund's top scorer with six goals, were all in strong form. The key factor in the Romanian side claiming the victory was the failure of the BVB defence to nullify the threat of Cristina Neagu, who scored 11 times. But what stood out is the fact that Neagu appeared to benefit from favourable decisions from the referees. While BVB were often quickly penalised for travelling, the several-time world handballer of the year Neagu was not.

"We're the underdogs in this league. If you consider the top international players that Bucharest have in their ranks, our performance was absolutely okay. The four-goal margin was slightly too much, but Bucharest were one or two goals better than us," Fuhr acknowledged fairly. Especially as the Borussia coach was without captain Alina Grijseels (broken nose) and goalkeeper Madita Kohorst (corona infection) for the trip to Bucharest. Left-winger Jennifer Gutiérrez Bermejo was available again after a long corona back but was some way from her peak performance levels.

Another strong display from Yara ten Holte

The Dortmund ladies travelled to fourth-placed Bucharest as the clear outsiders. And yet they still harboured hopes of an upset. Both teams made an error-strewn start to the match. Playmaker Fatos Kücükyildiz in particular made too many mistakes in her positional play in the opening stages, while her passes were often too weak. The fact that the score still remained level at 4-4 after 10 minutes was primarily down to another strong display from goalkeeper Yara ten Holte.

The failure to close down opposition players, the lack of service to the circle and poor chance conversion were BVB's major weaknesses in the opening period. However, you cannot afford to do that against top-class teams like CSM Bucuresti. Star player Cristina Neagu particularly shone in this spell with her five goals and ice-cold power play.

It was a poor spell between the 10th and 20th minutes of the match that cost BVB a possible draw. A long scoring drought followed pivot Merel Frerik's goal to level the scores at 4-4 in the ninth minute, with BVB simply too static on the court. It was not until the 19th minute that Frida Rønning, who was in good form, rescued BVB with a seven-metre throw to reduce the deficit to 11-6.

The coach's words during the time-out ("This is too hectic for me, we're making too many mistakes") had an impact, with BVB now looking calmer, finding their way back into the game and scoring through Rønning, Freriks and Laura van der Heijden. CSM were now off their game. With five minutes to go until the break, Merel Freriks made the score 14-12. Frida Rønning then scored with a perfect throw on the stroke of half-time to reduce CSM's lead to 16-14.

BVB refuse to give up

Now a player down, the Black & Yellows quickly fell four goals behind again in the minutes that followed the interval. A real shame. It was not the dominance of the Romanians, but rather too many of their own mistakes, that stopped BVB from closing the gap between the teams. Cristina Neagu then beat substitute goalie Clara Woltering with a seven-metre throw to make it 22-18 in the 41st minute.

But BVB battled on and did not give up. The introduction of Tessa van Zijl in place of Laura van der Heijden injected new momentum for BVB, who fought back goal by goal and reduced the deficit to 26-24 through goals from Mia Zschocke (45, 48), who was outstanding in the second half, and right-winger Amelie Berger (49). When Germany international Berger made it 26-25 seconds later, there was at the least a realistic chance of coming away with a draw.

And it remained close. With eight minutes to go, Merel Freriks made it 27-26. The equaliser was within reach. But the favourites from Romania showed all their cleverness, and it made the difference. When Christina Neagu increased the lead to 32-29 via a seven-metre throw with two minutes left, the game was up. Rupert Thiele, who led the BVB delegation as deputy head of department, concluded: "We were the underdogs, but gave a good account of ourselves against this expensively assembled team."

BVB: ten Holte, Woltering - Berger (6), Sando (2), Zschocke (5), van Zijl (1), Moreno (2), Kücükyildiz, Abdulla, Gutierrez, Freriks (5), van der Heijden (3), Rønning 5/1), Uscinowicz