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Match report

Women's handballers: Setback in the battle for second place

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The Borussia Dortmund women's handballers suffered a 29-28 (15-14) defeat in their top match away to HSG Bensheim/Auerbach and have dropped down to fourth place behind Thüringer HC, with whom they are level on points.

The scenario: After dropping a point in the 28-28 draw at Union Halle-Neustadt, BVB were under pressure in the race for second place in the Women's Handball Bundesliga. The Borussia ladies had beaten their direct rivals in the race for a European berth 31-28 in the reverse fixture. "It's always been very difficult to win in Bensheim, but especially so now. For me, it is the decisive game in determining second place," explained Borussia's sporting director Andreas Kuno before throw-off.

Personnel matters: Like last week, coach Henk Groener could once again count on an almost full squad following the return of Emma Olsson from illness. Lena Degenhardt was still absent (torn cruciate ligament).

The match & analysis: The game, which felt like a final in the battle for second spot in the Women's Handball Bundesliga, started with a delay of 60 minutes because the BVB team bus was stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway on the way to Bensheim. After the delayed start and only three minutes played, the Borussia ladies found themselves 3-0 down following two goals by Kim Naidzinavicius and one by Amelie Berger. BVB struggled against the home team's open defence. Kim Naidzinavicius even upped the lead to 4-0 with her second seven-metre throw after four minutes, before Lisa Antl scored the first goal for BVB from the circle (7:16 min).

Seconds later, Henk Groener called his first time-out to address the team. "Stay calm, we have enough time. Stay focused on yourselves and not on the referees," were the coach's words to his charges. He was proven right. With the game 10 minutes old, Lisa Antl reduced the deficit to 6-4 with her third goal. BVB were back in contention.

It was a shame that Zoe Sprengers' seven-metre throw after 13 minutes was saved by Bensheim goalkeeper Vanessa Fehr. Bensheim led 12-8 after 20 minutes, with five of the 12 goals coming from seven-metre throws alone.

But BVB refused to be left behind. They finally posed a threat in the back of the court after substitutes Dana Bleckmann and Haruno Sasaki were introduced, while the defence was now resolute. On the circle, Lisa Antl was almost unstoppable with six goals in the first period. 

Dana Bleckmann's second goal saw BVB narrow the deficit to two goals (12-10), with Lisa Antl then making it 12-11 after almost 23 minutes. Carmen Campos Costa levelled at 12-12 via a seven-metre throw after both Sprengers and Hausherr had spurned chances (26). The half-time whistle sounded with the score 15-14.

The better start after the break came from BVB, who defended aggressively and equalised at 15-15 through Alicia Stolle, before taking a 16-15 lead (33). BVB found themselves in front for the first time.

But that didn't mean anything. The match remained even. Kim Naidzinavicius put Bensheim 20-19 ahead after 40 minutes. Henk Groener reacted to the many simple mistakes by calling a time-out.

The final phase then had plenty of action. It was 25-25 after 50 minutes. With five minutes remaining, BVB were two goals behind (29-27). Was the match already decided by that point? Unfortunately, yes. Maraike Kusian might have managed to cut the deficit to 29-28 with 90 seconds of play left, but when Harma van Kreij failed to get the better of keeper Helen van Beurden shortly afterwards, the defeat was confirmed. 

Reactions: 
Henk Groener: "It was the tight game we expected for 60 minutes. Unfortunately, we were slightly caught napping at the start after a difficult journey. However, we cancelled out the deficit superbly and then even went ahead. Unfortunately, we were not capable of maintaining the lead in the final phase."

Harma van Kreij: "We weren't aggressive enough in defence at the start. We gave away too many free balls at the end, which Bensheim capitalised on."

Outlook: BVB will play their game in hand away to champions SG BBM Bietigheim next Wednesday. Throw-off is at 19:00 CEST. On Saturday 25 May, coach Henk Groener's team will play host to Buxtehuder SV in their final game of the season. Throw-off is at 19:00 CEST. 

Women's handball team: Lieder, Wachter; Hausherr, Sprengers, Kusian (2), Antl (7), van Kreij (2), Stolle (4), Ossenkopp, Sasaki (5), Olsson (1), Rønning, Bleckmann (2), Campos Costa (5/3)