The sensational comeback is complete! After the 28-19 defeat in the first leg, Borussia Dortmund's handball women were cheered on to a 32-22 (13-11) triumph in the quarter-final second leg against Neptunes de Nantes on Sunday afternoon. Captain Alina Grijseels threw BVB into the Final Four in Graz with her goal just 19 seconds before the final whistle, sending more than 1,300 BVB fans in Hamm wild.
Personnel matters: After nearly four weeks out with an injury, Alina Grijseels returned for the second leg against Nantes. Meret Ossenkopp had overcome her cold, but was still not fit enough to play the second leg against the top French team.
The match: The atmosphere in Hamm was breath-taking from the very beginning. More than 1,300 fans had made their way to the Westpress Arena, and they roared on their team from the very first second.
Nantes started well, getting off to an early 2-0 lead thanks to goals by Mari Finstad Bergum and Oriane Ondono. But BVB refused to lie down. Swede Emma Olsson equalised almost immediately, then Yara ten Holte saved a penalty throw before Zoe Sprengers gave BVB the lead for the first time.
Things then got tough on the court for the Black and Yellows. After 12 minutes, left-winger Zoë Sprengers, who had been the liveliest Dortmund player up to that point with four goals, was injured and had to leave the court, limping heavily and clearly in pain. Nevertheless, Dortmund continued to fight to turn around the deficit from the first leg in France. Thanks in no small part to a brilliant display from ten Holte in goal, who saved two penalties in the first quarter of an hour, BVB led 10-6 after 20 minutes. Captain Grijeseels increased the lead to 13-10 with a long throw shortly before the half-time whistle.
The second half began with another excellent save by ten Holte, who was on the spot to deny Onane Ondono's shot from space on the edge of the area. Slowly but surely, BVB began to get out from under their opponents, who were applying the pressure. Dortmund increased their lead to 20-17 on 40 minutes thanks to Sprengers, who had returned to the court. When Maraike Kusian found the back of the net twelve minutes before the time to make it 23-19 and Zöe Sprengers followed up shortly thereafter to extend BVB's lead to 24-19, the fans and the team grew in confidence and began to dream.
The last few minutes were drenched in suspense. 70 seconds before the end of the match, Alina Grijseels made it 31-22 on the day to erase the nine-goal deficit from the first leg. Just 19 seconds before the final whistle, the sensational comeback was complete. Once again, it was Alina Grijseels, who threw BVB into the Final Four with her tenth goal of the match.
Henk Groener (head coach): "History has shown that anything is possible in handball. We always believed we could do it. That was a victory for the whole team. We played with body and soul, and that makes something like this possible."
Rupert Thiele (head of the handball department): "The last 15 minutes were just incredible. I don't have the words to describe that performance, I'm overwhelmed."
Dr. Reinhold Lunow (President): "This is huge for sports in Dortmund. 15 minutes before the end, I hardly believed it was possible, but then the team showed so much energy to put in that performance."
Outlook: After the international break, the Bundesliga will continue with the home match against Saxony Zwickau on 15 April.
BVB Handball Women: Moth, ten Holte, Kohorst; Grijseels (10/5), Sprengers (7), Kusian (3), Antl (3), van Kreij, Sasaki, Olsson (3), Rønning, Bleckmann (4), Hausherr (2), Stens, Birk, Garovic