The Borussia Dortmund women's handball team have reached the finals of the European League following two clear wins in two qualifying games. Having claimed a 43-22 first-leg victory on Saturday, the Black & Yellows then beat Serbian representatives ZRK Zeleznicar 31-15 (19-6) in the return fixture on Sunday. As she had been on Saturday, Meret Ossenkopp was again the most prolific thrower in front of the 250-strong crowd, with seven goals. BVB will kick off the group phase on the weekend of 7/8 January 2023.

The scenario: While ZRK Zeleznicar had only beaten second-round opponents HC Dalmatinka Ploče on account of their superior goal difference, BVB only entered the European League in the third qualifying round. As a Champions League participant, the Black & Yellows were seeded.

Personnel matters: In addition to the long-term injury absentees Harma van Kreij and Madita Kohorst, plus Haruno Sasaki, who is on international duty for Japan, Lena Hausherr missed the return leg with an infection.

The match & analysis: Having suffered a heavy defeat the day before, an upset for the Serbian visitors was no longer on the cards. Zeleznicar did take a 2-1 lead following a goal from Tina Pauni in the third minute, but the game subsequently progressed similarly to the one the day before. BVB found themselves in a 6-4 lead after 10 minutes and then increasingly hit their stride. Within three minutes, Meret Ossenkopp and captain Alina Grijseels had scored three goals between them to make it 9-4. Zeleznicar coach Vlada Simicic looked visibly despondent on the sidelines and watched on as her team failed to find the net for 11 minutes, before reducing the deficit to 13-5 via a seven-metre throw.

The BVB defence looked highly vigilant and consistent in the period that followed, with goalkeeper Yara ten Holte doing her part between the sticks. Coach Henk Groener rang the changes at an early stage. Alina Grijseels and Dana Bleckmann, who have constantly been in action of late, were given a breather. But it did not matter who was on the court; the transition was seamless. Another positive was the performance of reserve player Lyna Schwarz, who upped the lead to 15-6 via a seven-metre throw and also produced a good display alongside Emma Olsson in the central block and in the backcourt area. With the score 19-6 at the break, the remaining 30 minutes were little more than a formality. Nonetheless, the spectators saw a match with some nice moves and goals. For example, the long-range shot from Frida Rønning in the 53rd minute to make it 27-15. It finished 31-15 to BVB thanks to Meret Ossenkopp's seventh goal.


Henk Groener (BVB head coach): "Following the big win in the first leg, we still managed to keep ourselves focused. We practiced some new things in defence and attack. That worked well in phases. The concentration then slipped away slightly in the second half."

Alina Grijseels: "After taking a short while to find our feet in the first half, we tried out some new moves and all the players got some playing time. Now we're looking ahead to the group phase. Qualification was our big objective."

Bernd Möllmann (BVB board): "It was evident that we on the board would watch the games live at the hall on both days. It was a matter of recognition and respect for the team, which plays very good handball on the national and international stage."

BVB women's handball team: Moth, ten Holte, Grijseels (4), Sprengers (1), Kusian (3), Ossenkopp (7), Olsson (1), Rønning (5), Stens, Bleckmann (3), Garovic (2), Antl (2), Schwarz (3)

Outlook: The Bundesliga campaign continues away to Sachsen Zwickau on Wednesday 7 December. That will be followed by a home game against promoted VfL Waiblingen on 17 December. The Dortmund ladies will then be away to league leader BBM Bietigheim on 26 December.